Research collaborations

ar2015-collaboration.jpgScion’s networks extend around the globe. Over the years, our scientists have developed strong international and national linkages with universities and other research institutes with the common goal of extending scientific knowledge and developing innovative technologies to help overcome some of the many and complex challenges facing today’s societies.

Such collaborations keep our scientists at the forefront of scientific achievement and technological advances, and keep Scion an attractive career destination for leading international scientists.The following examples showcase some of our collaborations.

Collaborating Overseas

VITO (Belgium)
Scion and VITO (Belgium) entered into a collaboration agreement to explore exciting opportunities to exploit lignin. The project will involve separating Scion’s lignin hydrogenolysis oils with VITO technologies, with both organisations able to explore the development of new products using these. The project will be underpinned by a joint postdoctoral fellow funded over two years by both organisations, who will work in both sites. This work is likely to interface with the National Science Challenge Science for Technological Innovation.

Scion and VITO have complementary technologies and operate from lab to pilot scale.  VITO has innovative technology relating to packaging and preparation of surfaces of materials, which could be applied to our biomaterials, as well as developing unique materials for separation or purification technologies (e.g. coating membranes).  They also have complementary work on the fermentation of waste to produce bioplastics, and are keen to build much closer ties with Scion.

FPInnovations, Canada
A joint proposal with FPInnovations (Canada) was submitted to Forest and Wood Products Australia Ltd (FWPA) for assessing wood processing options for different regions in Australia. A review of wood modification technologies was conducted for FWPA and a webinar given to present the technology options.

Clean Technologies Science Leader Dr Daniel Gapes visited FP Innovations in October, and attended the close-out meeting of the Genome Canada MGCB2 programme which Scion has been part of over its five-year lifetime. The visit established several links, which will be explored in more depth, and new opportunities for discussion, in particular the built environment.

VTT, Finland
Scion worked with VTT to finalise a joint work plan between the two organisations that will involve a jointly funded postdoctoral project. Two potential areas of research are bark biorefinery, and food from wood which fit current Scion initiatives and would speed up progress.

Other projects include Scion adapting VTT’s hemicellulose technology, which is used to make new packaging products, to radiata pine in New Zealand. Applying this technology to hemicelluloses from softwoods could provide an alternative option using altered fibre.

EU Bioproducts Standards, KBBPPS and Open-Bio
Samples of bio-based lubricants and grease received from a large international company are being tested in Scion’s biodegradation facility as part of a round robin series.

European Plant Sciences Organisations (EPSO)
Scion General Manager Manufacturing and Bioproducts, Dr Elspeth MacRae attended two EPSO working group meetings in Brussels, in October 2014, to establish a forestry working group to lead members across the European Union (EU) in lobbying activities, and recommendations to the EU under Horizon2020. Scion is co-leading the group together with the Umea Plant Science Centre (Sweden). The working group is focusing on recommendations for 2016-7 topics under Horizon2020, and modifying EU laws around new breeding technologies in much the same way as our efforts in New Zealand. The working group consists of representatives from Sweden, Portugal, Germany, Austria, Spain, France, Finland, Italy and New Zealand. 

Wildfire and community impacts - Associate Professor Tara McGee, University of Alberta
This collaboration with the University of Alberta involves the Karikari Peninsula case study of a wildfire-affected community. Two papers will be produced – one focused on the Karikari Peninsula case study and a second comparing research findings in a predominantly Māori community with the First Nations communities in Alberta.

Spray technologies
We are testing the hypothesis that the turbulence created by the roughness of the forest canopy allows for further deposition of aerosol spray drift than that already computed by the AGDISP™ spray model. A large field trial using the University of South Carolina’s backscatter LiDAR to measure the aerosol droplet cloud as it drifts over a sampling tower was successfully undertaken in March. Data collected will support four to six peer reviewed papers and a modification of the AGDISP™ spray drift model, which will improve its prediction of drift.,-march-2015/aerial-robotics-add-new-dynamic-to-forestry

IEA Bioenergy
Scion is part of the international IEA Bioenergy collaboration. We are continuing our involvement with Task 39 to commercialise liquid biofuels from biomass, and joined Task 34 to investigate the pyrolysis of biomass. The latter is closely aligned to our thermochemical technologies programme.

Korean Institute for Energy Research (KIER)
We submitted a joint proposal with NIWA and KIER to the NZ-Korea international collaboration fund to explore advanced technologies for thermochemical processing of biomass, for biofuel production. The work will focus on biomass relevant to Korea (waste wood and wastewater sludges) and to New Zealand (forest and forest industry wastes and algae grown on wastewater) and on the isolation of chemical co-products from these processes for high value applications such as battery electrolytes.

NZ-France Dumont D’Urville collaboration with INRA
Two researchers visited Scion as part of the third exchange on microscopic characterisation of pretreated biomass, used for biochemical production of sugars for further fermentation into products.  Advanced fluorescence spectroscopy techniques are being used to probe interactions at a microscopic level.

FRIENZ (Facilitating Research and Innovation between Europe and New Zealand)
FRIENZ funded visitors (three from Germany and one from Finland) were part of the FRIENZ Factories of the Future tour and spent a day at Scion with guests from Plant & Food Research discussing mutual opportunities between the EU and New Zealand in bioproducts areas of expertise.  These included 3D printing of biopolymers, big data, and manufacturing technologies. 

Collaborating at home

Forest Genetics together with the Radiata Pine Breeding Company (RPBC) and Scion’s Forest Protection Team screened the next tranche of RPBC’s Elite germplasm for resistance to red needle cast. Preliminary results indicated that genetic variation does exist, and some initial ‘resistant’ and ‘susceptible’ genotypes were identified for further validation. These genotypes will be used in the MBIE Healthy trees, healthy future (HTHF) programme.

We continued to collaborate with AgResearch under its MBIE Enabling Technologies programme for next generation sequencing and genotyping in species other than radiata pine. Whole genome sequencing was completed for Eucalyptus nitens and E. regnans. AgResearch’s team also successfully created the genotyping libraries for 95 E. nitens samples. In parallel work, we extracted DNA for Douglas-fir, redwood, tōtara and white cedar, and are now focusing on genomic DNA extraction from mānuka.

Industrial symbiosis
The first partner meetings of an MBIE contract were held. The initial focus is on gathering the dataset to use the Kawerau and Fonterra case studies as a model. Scion has helped with the commissioning of the new bark briquette plant as part of the industrial symbiosis complex at Kawerau.

NZProduct Accelerator
The NZProduct Accelerator is a government-funded initiative, from 2013 to 2019, to assist product/process development and accelerate the market uptake of new products. New Zealand and international companies, more than 100 researchers and practitioners from nine research organisations (including Scion) and several government organisations are involved. Scion initiated a project with an appliance manufacturer to understand the effect of nanomist use in refrigerators on the quality and shelf-life of stored produce. Our focus is to get this concept to prototype stage because preliminary investigation on the quality of stored vegetable showed the benefit of using ultrafine mist. Further investigations are in progress as well as the design/adaptation of a suitable nanomist generator for incorporating in refrigerators.

Bioresource Processing Alliance
As part of our commitment to the Bioresource Processing Alliance (BPA), a hydrothermal project on wool carpets with AgResearch was completed, showing good potential to develop an alternative to landfill and the possible development of new IP.

Dr Daniel Gapes has developed a strategy for our engagement with BPA, identifying Scion-led projects: development of slow release fertiliser from lignin; extracting and modifying sawdust for the animal and pet food industry; cross sector resource/value chain analysis systems; and biopolymer production from low-value resources.

University of Auckland
Scion is working on the ‘Biocide toolbox’ project with the University of Auckland. Led by Dr Tripti Singh, the project aims to produce materials coated with or containing antimicrobial agents. Scion will be involved in quantifying anti-microbial and anti-fungal potency, and contribute natural biocides to the project.

Plant & Food Research and S-lignin transgenic plants
A Scion-Plant & Food Research collaboration involved insect feeding trials on transgenic S-lignin radiata pine trees. The test larvae, the common forest looper, Pseudocoremia suavis, thrived on the transgenic trees, growing larger than controls.

This has led to further scientific opportunity for P. suavis fed entirely on P. radiata to provide a unique source of bespoke enzymes for biochemical-based biorefineries.

Attracting New Talent

Scion is the leading Crown research institute for sustainable forest management, tree improvement, forestry biosecurity, wood processing, wood-related bioenergy and other biomaterials, and forestry-based ecosystem services. Our specialist capability, along with our enviable location at the edge of the renowned Whakarewarewa Forest, makes Scion an attractive destination for leading scientists from around the globe. This year, we welcomed:

Paul Bennett, Science Leader for Clean Technologies
Scion’s bioenergy and biofuels research aligns well with the International Energy Agency’s objectives to enhance energy efficiency and increase the share of renewables in the mix, and supports the move towards a bio-based economy in New Zealand. Paul recently joined Scion’s Rotorua campus from England having spent over 25 years working on a range of fuels, biofuels and bioenergy issues. Investigating opportunities for the bioenergy sector in New Zealand is high on Dr Paul Bennett’s list of priorities. more.

Dr Florian Graichen, Science Leader for Biopolymers and Chemicals
Florian brought with him an extensive background in developing renewable and sustainable ‘green’ resources. His previous roles at the Flemish Institute for Technological Research (VITO) in Belgium and at CSIRO in Australia focused on sustainable alternatives to crude oil based raw materials, combined with the development of speciality polymers and materials. He also has experience in developing multi-party, multi-disciplinary projects, such as ‘Biorizon’, a multinational shared research centre with a focus on technology development for the production of biobased aromatics for performance materials, chemicals and coatings. more.

Dr Carel Bezuidenhout, Science Leader for Value Chain Optimisation
A small dedicated team of systems analysts who specialise in ironing out the complexities of supply chains, analysing market opportunities and making operations run more efficiently was created at Scion and Dr Carel Bezuidenhout has emigrated from South Africa to run it. “A supply chain is about making money by producing, moving and marketing products,” said Carel. “On the other hand, a value chain is more about alignments where companies with similar business models synergise and innovate to create unique win-win opportunities.” 

The team has already begun to analyse data that describe product flow and stockpiling to quantify the forestry supply chain’s degree of leanness and agility.

A Log Price Opinion Index was created by the team earlier this year to gauge a better idea of future log prices. This three-monthly web-based survey provides a speculative log price forecast based on informed opinions. This is a unique initiative in the New Zealand forestry industry that asks log traders and others within the industry to think about what is likely to happen to log prices over the coming months, and to vote confidentially online. The team collates and graphs this information and shares it with those who participated. more.

Dr Christophe Collet, Research Leader for Industrial Biotechnology
Using bacteria to produce bioplastics and other high value products from wood residue, in the context of a biorefinery, is an area of research Dr Christophe Collet is focusing on at Scion.

Originally from Switzerland, Christophe gained his PhD in environmental science and engineering from the renowned Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL). Since 2004, he has been based in New Zealand working for start-up company ZyGEM Corporation Ltd, where he helped develop high-value products for use in research, forensic and molecular diagnostics; protein biologics manufacturer ICPBio Ltd; and steel mill flue gas bioprocessing company LanzaTech Ltd, before joining Scion. more.

Brionny Hooper, human factors scientist
Human factors scientist Brionny Hooper helps individuals perform to the best of their ability while compensating for their natural limitations. A recent addition to Scion’s Human Factors Team, Brionny examines the interactions that occur between humans and their environment, in complex high-risk industries like forestry. Brionny has experience applying human factors and safety systems principles in a number of inherently hazardous industries, including the military, aviation, oil and gas, utilities, mining, road and rail transport. Throughout this time, she learned the impact of applied science.

She is working with key industry stakeholders to develop safety and performance initiatives that will benefit both workers and industry alike. As Brionny explains, human factors is an applied multidisciplinary science that looks at ways to optimise performance, maximise longer-term productivity and minimise the potential for errors, all without compromising worker safety and well-being. This increased capability places Scion in a good position to support the New Zealand forest industry achieve its safety and productivity goals. more.