Posted on 27 October 2020

Catching the wave: new Innovation Fund projects to grow our blue economy

Following a high level of interest, we are pleased to announce six projects that will be funded by the Innovation Fund 2020. 

“The Innovation Fund is about introducing new approaches and ideas to build a blue economy in Aotearoa New Zealand,” says Director Julie Hall.  

Sunscreen made from algae, sea-star collagen, using native plants to collect baby mussels and bringing back the iconic toheroa are just a few of the ideas that are being funded. 

These projects are collaborations with researchers, industry and Māori partnersand are guided by the needs of people and communities. They are: 

  • Pātangaroa, bioactive potential of New Zealand sea-stars  
    Investigating the economic potential of collagen and bioactives from 11-armed sea-star to manage overpopulation. 
    Led by: Matt Miller (Cawthron), Kura Paul-Burke (University of Waikato), Matthew Cumming (Plant and Food Research)
  • Kohunga Kutai 
    Creating a sustainable supply of seed mussels using mātauranga Māori. 
    Led by: Andrew Jeffs (University of Auckland), Nicola MacDonald (Ngati Rehua & Ngāti Mahuhiri) 
  • Algae sun defence 
    Preventing sun-induced skin damage with New Zealand algae-derived bioactives.
    Led by: Mike Packer (Cawthron), Tom Wheeler (Cawthron) 
  • Whakaika te Moana 
    Indigenous aquaculture practices to explore a hapū based blue economy. 
    Led by: Te Rerekohu Tuterangiwhiu (Cawthron) 
  • Developing community-based toheroa aquaculture
    Thinking outside the can: engineering a sustainable future for toheroa aquaculture in Taitokerau. 
    Led by: Phil Ross (University of Waikato)Taoho Patuawa (Te Roroa), Jonny Hill (Bluetide Aquaculture)
  • A novel approach to aquaculture in Aotearoa New Zealand
    Developing a disruptive business model to allow small whānau-owned aquaculture farms of pātiki totara yellowbelly flounder. 
    Led by: Simon Muncaster (University of Waikato), Steve Bird (University of Waikato), Kura Paul-Burke  (University of Waikato), Jason Murray (Ngai Te Rangi), Aubrey Te Kanawa (Ahikōmako), Dickie Farrar (Whakatōhea), Tim Coltman (University of Waikato)

These projects are part of the Blue economy research theme led by Nick Lewis from the University of Auckland.  

Innovative businesses and the wider community have argued for several years that we need to do economy differently,” says Nick. 

The pandemic has added a new urgency to their call and given us the opportunity to make genuine change. With a focus on marine activities that support social, ecological and cultural well-being, building a blue economy in Aotearoa may just be the answer. 

“These Innovation Fund projects are exciting examples of how to go about building a new future and offer us a glimpse of what it might look like.”  

More information will be available at once these six projects are contracted. Two other projects are still under consideration. 

Notes to editors 

About the Innovation Fund – The Innovation Fund enables research projects that will contribute directly to building a blue economy in Aotearoa New Zealand. We define blue economy as being comprised of marine activities that generate economic value and contribute positively to social, cultural and ecological well-being. The $2 million fund invests up to $250,000 in projects for up to 2 years. 

About the Sustainable Seas National Science Challenge – The vision of Sustainable Seas is for Aotearoa New Zealand to have healthy marine ecosystems that provide value for all New Zealanders. It brings together scientists, social scientists, economists, and experts in mātauranga Māori and policy. It is funded by MBIE and hosted by NIWA.  

About the National Science Challenges – Sustainable Seas is one of 11 National Science Challenges. These align and focus Aotearoa New Zealand’s research on large and complex issues, bringing together scientists and experts from different organisations and across disciplines to achieve a common goal. 

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