The inaugural $50,000 Canterbury Proof of Concept Grant has been allocated, with the money set to help the winner commercialise his ground-breaking initiative around electrical filters.
The grant, which was open to all Canterbury-based publically funded research organisations and aims to help turn ideas into a marketable product or service, was won by University of Canterbury engineering student John Morris. While the idea cannot yet be fully disclosed due to commercial sensitivity, he believes it could transform the electric and electronic power industry.
“I am very grateful and excited to receive this grant. The timing of it is perfect as we are right at the point of proving the viability of the concept. It will also help establish my intellectual property position around the idea and enable full scale devices to be built for field trials,” John said.
John, who is a well-known figure in Christchurch’s electrical industry, initially did his undergraduate degree in physics at the University of Canterbury 25 years ago and returned in 2014 to undertake post-graduate studies on a part-time basis. He also works fulltime as an electrical engineer for IC Switchgear, with the business being supportive of the research he is carrying out in his own time.
“I thought of this nearly 20 years ago and am delighted to now have the chance to develop it into a commercial product,” he said.
“My filter applies technology which was pioneered by Canterbury University over three decades ago. I was inspired by researcher and teacher Emeritus Professor Pat Bodger, and was very fortunate to return to hear his final lectures on the subject before his retirement at the end of 2014.
The technology has the potential to dramatically reduce the size and cost of filters used in electrical networks worldwide. John hopes to demonstrate by the end of this year whether there is a commercial opportunity in his idea.
“By mid-year we will have a working unit, which will mean we can start running trials in the field. That will be a huge milestone and the funding is going to prove invaluable for helping us get to this point,” he said.
The grant is jointly funded by Return On Science, which focuses on commercialising publically-funded research from organisations throughout New Zealand, and CDC Innovation, which is part of Canterbury Development Corporation (CDC) and supports Canterbury’s innovation system. Both organisations are partners in the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s Commercialisation Partner Network.
CDC Chief Executive Tom Hooper was pleased with the 20 applications received, especially the high calibre and range of them.
“We knew there were a lot of innovative ideas within the region and the response to the grant has confirmed that. Innovation is vital in creating a vibrant economy and we can be confident that entrepreneurship is alive and well in Canterbury.”
Applications came from researchers in biosciences, agriculture, electronics and health.
Return On Science Programme and Commercialisation Director Graham Scown says the success of this inaugural grant meant it was likely it would run again in the region, possibly every two years.
“We want to help more people take their great ideas further through the commercialisation process faster. This is a sizeable amount and will make a real difference in helping ideas gain momentum and become commercial realities.”
In addition to the $50,000 grant, John will receive support from one of the expert Return On Science Investment Committees. The top five runners-up will also receive support from a relevant Return On Science Investment Committee, including input and advice on how to approach the commercialisation process such as technical prototyping, market validation and intellectual property, as well as valuable contacts and networks.
Canterbury Proof of Concept Grant winners:
John Morris, University of Canterbury
Top five runners-up:
Andrew Graham, UC Innovators
Grant Bennett, Ara Institute of Canterbury (previously Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology)
John Hampton, Lincoln University
Helen Lunt, Canterbury District Health Board
David Leung, University of Canterbury