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Three innovative University of Otago-led research projects in the areas of nutrition, energy, and infrastructure were this week awarded a total of $13.2m in new science investment funding through the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment.
Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research & Enterprise) Professor Richard Blaikie says the University is very pleased to be leading the three projects, which involve research teams from Wellington to Dunedin, recognising the breadth of excellent research within the University.
“These funding rounds are highly competitive, and to achieve this success requires the demonstration of both high quality science and its potential impact. Such achievements are particularly important for the University of Otago in demonstrating that it is not only the home of excellent research, but is motivated to seeing this research applied and extended for the wider benefit for New Zealand.”
The three Otago-led projects are titled Resilient Urban Futures, Energy Cultures 2 and Functional Formula.
Resilient Urban Futures is a $9.2 million, four-year project led by the New Zealand Centre for Sustainable Cities. It focuses on the question of which development path our cities should take to ensure that maximum environmental, economic, social and cultural benefits can be gained. The researchers will compare the broad costs and benefits and qualities of two possible urban development paths. The first path emphasises more compact development within existing urban areas while the other focuses on further ‘greenfield’ development on the outskirts of cities.
Energy Cultures 2 is a $3.2 million project that also runs for four years. Led by the University’s Centre for Sustainability, it will look at energy uses in New Zealand’s homes, small businesses and the transport sector to see how they can become more energy efficient. The project hopes to answer the questions: “What energy efficiencies can be achieved with new transport technologies and practices? How can markets be encouraged to deliver them, and consumers to adopt them?”
The Functional Formula project will be led by Professor Gerald Tannock of the Department of Microbiology & Immunology and is funded under the ‘Smart Ideas’ category. With first phase funding of $789,900 over two years, the project will investigate the use of novel carbohydrates (oligosaccharides) that can be added to infant formula made from cow’s milk. The carbohydrates will be modified chemically so that they resemble the oligosaccharides that occur naturally in human milk. These kinds of oligosaccharides will enhance the growth of certain bacteria (bifidobacteria) that dominate the collection of bowel bacteria in healthy breast milk-fed babies.