Post sponsored by NewzEngine.com

Source: University of Canterbury

27 August 2020

Two University of Canterbury innovations are among the 12 finalists selected for the eighth annual KiwiNet Research Commercialisation Awards, designed to celebrate impact from science through successful research commercialisation within New Zealand’s universities, Crown research institutes and other research organisations.

  • The University of Canterbury’s Associate Professor Aaron Marshall, co-founder of Zincovery, is commercialising a process to treat the waste generated by the galvanising industry.

Two University of Canterbury innovations are among the 12 finalists selected for the eighth annual KiwiNet Research Commercialisation Awards, designed to celebrate impact from science through successful research commercialisation within New Zealand’s universities, Crown research institutes and other research organisations.

  • Zincovery – extracting value and improving the environment through the treatment of waste from the galvanising industry
    Award Category: Norman Barry Foundation Breakthrough Innovator
  • Invert Robotics – suction-based robots for industrial inspection
    Award Category: PwC Commercial Impact

The University of Canterbury’s Associate Professor Aaron Marshall, co-founder of Zincovery, is an entrepreneur with a keen interest in solving real-world industrial problems. He is commercialising a process to treat the waste generated by the galvanising industry. This waste is strongly acidic, saturated with dissolved iron and zinc, and an environmental problem.

Currently, this waste is neutralised and landfilled (~1,500,000 litres per year in New Zealand). On average, galvanisers pay NZ$0.50 per litre to dispose of this waste, which is approximately 5-10% of all galvanising costs. This disposable method is environmentally damaging as zinc can leach from these landfills, harming aquatic life. Globally, over $250million per year of zinc is landfilled in this manner – a significant waste of a finite and valuable resource.

Until recently, it was not possible to economically treat this waste to recover the valuable zinc. The key breakthrough came when Associate Professor Marshall, from the University of Canterbury’s Department of Chemical and Process Engineering, applied a non-conventional method to facilitate the separation of zinc from the waste acid. Together with Jonathan Ring (one of Associate Professor Marshall’s masters students, and co-founder of Zincovery), a complete process based around this separation technology has been developed and is in the early stages of commercialisation. This work has been supported by two rounds of PreSeed Accelerator Fund investment from KiwiNet.

Zincovery is also a finalist in Callaghan Innovation’s C-prize 2020 competition which aims to help new companies develop environmental technology with solid commercial potential.

Associate Professor Marshall believes the Zincovery technology can allow New Zealand to be the first country to have a zero-waste galvanising industry. Currently the New Zealand commercial treatment plant is projected to have a ROI of >25% and Zincovery has had strong interest from New Zealand galvanisers and a number of private investors. Once the New Zealand treatment plant is operational, the business plan sees expansion into the larger Australian market, before heading into other international markets.

World-first technology eliminating height and confined space hazards

In 2007, researchers at the University of Canterbury (UC) developed a world-first crawler capable of climbing non-magnetic materials. In collaboration with the University’s Department of Mechanical Engineering, UC Research and Innovation and local Technology Incubator Powerhouse Ventures, UC engineering student James Robertson identified a market for the technology and spun out Invert Robotics in 2012.

The global dairy industry, including local stalwarts Fonterra, Westland and Synlait, are dependent on equipment made from non-magnetic stainless steel, namely large tanks and powder spray dryers. This equipment can crack over time and, left unchecked, these defects present a risk to product quality.

Launched in 2013, the Invert Robotics inspection service is based around the unique crawler technology. Clients of the service completely eliminate the confined-space-entry and working-at-height hazards associated with the traditional inspection technique; hanging people on ropes inside the tank with a torch.

Invert Robotics has successfully raised more than $15m in growth capital through NZVIF, investment funds and private investors since inception and continues to experience strong growth. In addition to servicing 40 countries from six global offices, expansion opportunities in the chemical and aerospace markets loom and the growth trend continues.

About KiwiNet

The Kiwi Innovation Network (KiwiNet) is a consortium of 18 universities, Crown research institutes, an independent research organisation and a Crown entity established to boost commercial outcomes from publicly funded research by helping to transform scientific discoveries into new products and services.

  • In 2007, researchers at the University of Canterbury (UC) developed a world-first crawler capable of climbing non-magnetic materials.

MIL OSI