Significant funding boost for University of Waikato research

The University of Waikato has achieved significant results in the latest funding round from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment's Endeavour Fund.

15 Sep 2023

One research programme, and six Smart Ideas projects have been awarded grants through the highly contested fund.

Tauhokohoko: Indigenising trade policy and enabling mana motuhake through Indigenous trade ($14.9m over 5 years)

Associate Professor of the School of Management and Marketing Operations and Associate Dean Māori Dr Jason Mika (Tūhoe, Ngāti Awa, Whakatōhea, Ngāti Kahungunu) is investigating different ways of doing business to mitigate climate change and environmental harm.

He is head of a Māori-led partnership between Māori practitioners of Indigenous trade at Te Taumata, and Māori, Indigenous, and non-Indigenous researchers at Te Kotahi Research Institute.

On learning about the funding, Dr Mika said:

“Ko te mea tuatahi, he mihi ki te Atua, nana nei ngā mea katoa. Tuarua, ka mihi ki ō tātau mātua tīpuna, nā rātau mā i taea ai te kawe i ngā kaupapa Māori pēnei nā. Tuatoru, ka mihi ki ōku hoa mahi o Te Kotahi me Te Raupapa o te Whare Wānanga o Waikato, te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi, me Te Kunenga ki Pūrehuroa mō ā koutou nā tautoko, ō pūkenga anō hoki. Tuawhā, he mihi nui ki Te Taumata, nā koutou i taea. Tēnei rā, e tika ka whakanui i te hōnore nui nei. Ae, me kai pihikete me te kapū tī. Nā te mea, hei āpōpō, ka timata te mahi.”

Together the research team will be looking at approaches where business achievement and prosperity are not measured by individual accumulation, but by the extent of the contributions to the wellbeing of others and the environment.  Dr Mika said,

Everything we now desire in business and society might have been: sustainable and inclusive trade, environmental sustainability, fair and equitable access to opportunity and outcomes. Instead, we’ve been constrained by legacies of believing there was only one right way, and that way was not the Māori way,” says Dr Mika.

Using kaupapa Māori and Indigenous methodologies, the research seeks to transform trade policy to achieve the aspirations shared by Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples — a climate-resilient economy that is equitable and produces high-value goods and services from innovative entrepreneurial activity.

“Imaginethe definition of triple bottom-line performance is mauri (wellbeing).This doesn’t mean Māori entrepreneurs and businesspeople aren’t interested in making a profit – profit is important for enterprise viability. It is why and how they do this and who benefits that can be decidedly different,” he says.

The research aims to create a new Indigenous-based framework for international trade that puts the wellbeing of te taiao (the environment) and ngā tāngata (the people) at the centre.

“We want pragmatic outcomes from our research. For example, new frameworks, standards, guidance, and practices for trade policy, using the Aotearoa variant of indigeneity found in the notion of te ao Māori and te Tiriti o Waitangi.”

It is anticipated that the framework will have multiple positive outcomes.

“By amplifying the role of Indigenous knowledge of environmentally responsible trade policy our framework will normalise Indigenous perspectives and support the transition to a low-emissions, climate-resilient economy.”

Smart Ideas (each funded for $1m over 3 years)

Physically plausible record-shattering drought events in a warming Aotearoa 

Climate change scientist Dr Luke Harrington will look at data from climate models, coupled with guidance from historical observations and mātauranga Māori, to identify drought events capable of occurring over Aotearoa within the next three decades. In a country reliant on primary industries the research is a crucial step towards ensuring our economy remains resilient to a rapidly warming climate.

Safe, solid-state hydrogen storage technology – Enabling New Zealand’s zero-carbon emissions target 

Dr Fei Yang Associate Professor of Engineering will lead a team to deliver optimised high-entropy alloy hydrogen storage materials and technologies that meet weight, volume, thermodynamic, kinetic, and safety requirements. This research will enable the use of hydrogen for transportation and stationary energy storage uses, to help establish a working low-carbon economy.

High-capacity, responsive thermal storage for coupling mismatched energy supply and demand 

Dr Fei Yang and Dr Murray McCurdy (GNS Science) will work together to lead a team to develop a new thermal energy storage technology to couple renewable heat sources, such as geothermal, biomass and solar, to heat demand in process heat and electricity generation. This will reduce the need for fossil fuels in our primary processing sectors, while reducing greenhouse gas emissions. It will also mean carbon charges can be avoided so increases to the cost of electricity and food products will also be avoided.

Probiotic Inoculants for Seaweed Hatcheries and Aquaculture 

Associate Professor of Marine Science and Aquaculture, Dr Marie Magnusson will identify and assess seaweed microbiomes that stimulate growth and development and/or disease resistance in seaweeds. The aim is to select seaweed probiotics to improve the performance of seaweed produced in hatcheries for aquaculture.

Microwave Brain Scanner for Early Alzheimer’s Disease Detection

Professor of Engineering and biomedical imaging expert, Dr Yifan Chen will lead a highly skilled, multi-disciplinary team that is developing a novel, non-invasive, low-cost microwave scanner to aid ‘point of care’ testing for Alzheimer’s Disease (AD). AD is the most common cause of dementia, the seventh leading cause of death among diseases worldwide.

Smart-antigens for ovine antiviral hyperimmune milk production

Applied immunologist Dr William Kelton, in collaboration with structural biologist Dr Adele Williamson, and biotech innovators Ruakura Technologies will develop milk with enhanced immune protection against norovirus. The science mimics nature and can be compared to the way a mother’s milk protects a newborn baby from disease causing pathogens.

University of Waikato Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research, Professor Bryony James, says these results are fantastic for Waikato, in what is a notoriously competitive research funding environment.

“The work that goes into preparing and submitting high quality applications is significant and I would like to acknowledge all those involved.”

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