Grants Make Everyone a Winner

There’s nothing Martin Goodyer enjoys more than a ‘win-win’ story. BCC’s commercialisation manager has been instrumental in arranging several government grants that pair Manawatu firms with bright graduates wanting to undertake R&D work. “I love doing those grants,” he says. “The company gets an expert, the graduate gets their post-graduate degree. Everyone’s a winner.”

Recently Goodyer played midwife to another of these R&D fellowship grants, which are awarded by Callaghan Innovation, the government entity charged with connecting business with research. The grant of $90,000 over three years will fund Massey Mechatronics PhD candidate Matthew Flammer to work on a research project for Kerf, a small Palmerston North-based engineering outfit that manufactures plasma cutting machines. Flammer will work on a solution to allow Kerf to offer customers bevel cutting – essentially, he will be researching, designing and building a robotic prototype capable of handling the complicated movements required to do profile cuts.

“They’re going to gain a real leap on the competition with this development,” predicts Goodyer. “They’ll have something unique, some IP that no one else has got. It might lead to further R&D work and more jobs – at least, that’s what I’m hoping.”

Kerf general manager Glen Gray is also optimistic, although he notes it’s early days. “There’s no guarantee it will turn into anything – it’s a leap of trust for us,” says Gray, who adds that the company has invested substantially itself in the project. “Doing it this way [with a PhD student] provides a structured development path and should produce excellent documentation for ISO accreditation – meaning a worldwide qualifying piece of equipment.”

The fellowship grant is only one of the instruments available through Callaghan Innovation to encourage R&D work by Manawatu firms. “The idea is that people like me in the regions find companies that want to engage in R&D and other innovations to make them go faster and that have export potential,” says Goodyer.

Earlier this year he organised an R&D grant for Palmerston North-based Hardy Rifle Engineering, run by former New Zealand Army armourer Dan Hardy and his wife Michelle. Callaghan Innovation have kicked in $33,000 – 40 per cent of the cost of developing a new generation rifle silencer for export.

The company employs an innovative ‘monocore’ design in its aluminium and titanium suppressors, as opposed to the traditional use of baffles. That makes them lightweight and compact, so they’re perfect for hunting. The new silencer will also be significantly quieter than previous models.

Michelle Hardy says they’re targeting the US, where heavy steel silencers are the norm, and are hardly used for hunting.

“Over there it’s always been more about decibel reduction. We’re trying to teach the hunting market why you need smaller and more compact silencers and that you can still get the quiet. Using a silencer allows you to shoot multiple game. Particularly if you’re shooting with a companion, it means you can both take game. It’s also good when hunting with others or animals to protect their hearing.”

Winning the Callaghan Innovation grant has helped to accelerate the development of the new silencer, she remarks. “We’ve had to take the equivalent of four full-time staff to do this project, so we’re keen to get it through as quickly as possible. It’s on track.”

That’s music to Martin Goodyer’s ears.

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