Two Canterbury student entrepreneurs in KiwiNet award finals
02 August 2021
Two innovative University of Canterbury students have been named as finalists in the KiwiNet Research Commercialisation Awards 2021, competing for the Momentum Student Entrepreneur prize.
The award recognises a highly motivated PhD student who has made significant progress developing an idea that can change the world. These students are making outstanding contributions to business innovation or have created innovative businesses in Aotearoa New Zealand through technology licencing, start-up creation or by providing expertise to support business innovation. (There is also a third finalist in the student category.)
In total, 16 finalists have been selected for the ninth 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 KiwiNet Awards showcase the best research innovations coming out of our universities and research organisations that are having a commercial impact.
The two University of Canterbury finalists for the Momentum Student Entrepreneur 2021 award are:
Luke Campbell – Millions of calls made smarter with Vxt
Co-founder and CEO of call and voicemail platform Vxt, Luke Campbell is studying toward a bachelor’s degree in Physics and Economics at the University of Canterbury. Luke started the business with co-founder, and long-time partner, computer scientist Lucy Turner in November 2018. Since launching the company, Luke and the now 17-strong Vxt team have rapidly grown the Vxt business. Luke also dedicates time to encouraging other students to launch their ventures and assists with start-up challenges and hackathons.
Vxt is replacing traditional phone systems with a smart calling and voicemail platform for lawyers, recruiters, and professional services. Vxt boasts over 10,000 platform users – across the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand – and has helped customers manage over 2 million phone calls since launching their first service in October 2019. Vxt’s customers use the flexible software platform to make calls with business numbers from anywhere while automating administrative tasks associated with phone calls, often saving multiple hours per staff member per week.
Vxt is part of the Google Cloud for Startups Programme, the Vodafone Xone Partner Series Programme with BNZ, and the prestigious Startmate accelerator programme. The fast-growing company has raised close to $1 million so far and is raising additional funds to enable continued growth. Counting Microsoft, Zoom, Cisco, and many more among their competitors, Luke and the team at Vxt are a great example of what a small group of dedicated Kiwis can achieve on the global stage.
Tom Maslin – The next generation of cochlea implant technology
Engineers at the University of Canterbury are developing the next generation of cochlea implants using a new method of detecting sound that enables a higher quality of hearing in a fully implantable prosthetic.
Tom Maslin was working as a graduate engineer in robotics and automation before returning to study as a doctoral candidate in mechanical engineering under Mechanical Engineering academic Associate Professor Stefanie Gutschmidt. Building on a new method of detecting sound validated by Associate Professor Gutschmidt and her research group, Tom is working to develop the technology into a fully implantable device able to restore hearing above what conventional cochlea implants can achieve.
Almost half a billion people globally suffer from disabling hearing loss, and cochlea neuroprosthetics offer to restore some of their ability for verbal communication. This generates a still-growing NZ$2.63 billion industry globally, even as conventional implant users continue to struggle to hear in noisy environments, listen to music, and protect a fragile electrical device on the side of their head.
Perhaps the most significant restricting factor of the cochlea implant is the incredible cost; the Ministry of Health provides $15 million annually in New Zealand, which can fund only 160 implants per year, leaving many eligible patients to struggle to find funding themselves. Removing the need for an external unit can decrease the complexity and cost of the surgery creating a better performing device with greater accessibility.
Tom is aiming to have a device available for in-vivo testing within three years and has recently been awarded a place in the KiwiNet Emerging Innovator Programme to develop his understanding of the medical device marketplace, investigate models for going to market, and build his knowledge in medical device regulation.
- The KiwiNet Awards Presentation Day and Evening Reception will be on Thursday 16 September at the Aotea Centre, Auckland. The finalists will each deliver 10-minute pitches to the judging panel in front of an audience. In the evening, the winners are announced and presented with their awards.
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