Wellington innovators shine at 2023 KiwiNet Awards

Published Oct 3, 2023

New Zealand’s biggest celebration of research commercialisation saw two Wellington UniVentures nominees take home top prizes, including Professor Rod Badcock who was named BNZ Researcher Entrepreneur and spin-out XFrame which won the MAS Commercialisation Impact Award.

Winners in the 11th annual KiwiNet Research Commercialisation Awards were celebrated at a gala event in Auckland last week for their success in transforming research into impactful innovations.

“We were incredibly proud to nominate two of the seven winners at this year’s awards,” says Wellington UniVentures Acting CEO Pierre Malou.

Prof Rod Badcock

Professor Rod Badcock – BNZ Researcher Entrepreneur

Robinson Research Institute’s Deputy Director Professor Rodney Badcock won the BNZ Research Entrepreneur award which recognises an experienced entrepreneurial researcher who has made outstanding contributions to research commercialisation impact in New Zealand.

“We nominated Rod for this award because he embodies what it means to be an entrepreneurial researcher.

“Working closely with Rod, we are constantly inspired by his twin commitments to research excellence and research impact. Not only is he at the forefront of New Zealand’s efforts to decarbonise air travel, but he’s also helped seed and grow some of New Zealand’s most successful start-ups,” says Pierre.

The KiwiNet Award judges were drawn to Rod’s laser focus on empowering others to succeed, adding: “Rod finds talented people and helps build them into entrepreneurs. The number of young innovators that have come out of Robinson Research Institute is a testament to the entrepreneurial culture he has infused there. Rod’s own success and international reputation in his field is an inspiration, but how he really delivers impact is through others. Rod is a true champion for science innovators across New Zealand.”

Rod is proud of the dedication to applied research that makes Robinson Research Institute a global success. He adds, "In our labs, it’s not enough to be solving technically difficult problems, the solutions have to contribute to a greater good that delivers for NZ and the world– that’s mission oriented research. Wellington UniVentures supports us to keep focused on that mission by working behind the scenes to protect our researchers’ IP, find connections with partners and investors, and offer advice as we navigate the journey from lab to market.” 


Dr Ged Finch

XFrame & Wellington UniVentures – MAS Commercialisation Impact

The MAS Commercialisation Impact Award, which celebrates a project delivering outstanding innovation performance and generating significant impact for New Zealand, went to Wellington UniVentures’ 2019 spin-out XFrame.

“XFrame has the potential to eliminate half of all of New Zealand’s waste – it doesn’t get much more impactful than that,” says Pierre.

The approximately 1.6 million tonnes which makes up half of the country’s yearly waste comes from the construction sector. XFrame has developed reusable building frame system that has the potential to turn the highly polluting industry into a circular economy.

“Having supported XFrame from its beginnings as a research project dreamed up by master's student-turned-founder, Ged Finch, into a successful spin-out, we've been so pleased to see it continue to thrive without losing any of its integrity or innovative edge.”

The KiwiNet Award judges agreed. They were impressed with how rapidly XFrame has scaled, and its potential for global impact while also meeting an important need for New Zealand, adding: “What the company has achieved in terms of partnerships, revenue, and environmental benefit in such a short space of time is extremely impressive, and the team has clearly well-positioned the company for success. XFrame has enormous potential to benefit the circular economy. It’s an impressive example of a technology meeting a large market need to do good things for the world.”

Ged says that XFrame credits its success today to the strong support received from Wellington UniVentures. "Wellington UniVentures supported XFrame with product/market fit due diligence, intellectual property protection support, Human Resources support (contracts, payroll & office space), and company formation advisory like term sheet negotiations and board structure," he says.

Another Wellington-based innovator honoured at last week’s awards was MacDiarmid Institute’s Kevin Sheehy, who won the Simpson Grierson Commercialisation Professional Award. Ahead of the awards, The Spinoff published a piece featuring some of the scientists navigating the journey from the lab to the deep tech marketplace and how Kevin helped them along their way.

“We congratulate Kevin and our friends at the MacDiarmid institute on this well-deserved honour. We’ve had the pleasure of working with the Institute on several spin-out successes, including Advemto, Liquium and the winner of last year's Commercialisation Impact Award, Magritek,” says Pierre.

The annual KiwiNet awards are the biggest national event celebrating the science and commercialisation heroes who turn discoveries into transformational new products and services. For a full list of this year's award winners, visit KiwiNet’s website.