NZ at forefront of global electric vehicle technology

In by far the most significant technology transfer deal ever achieved by a New Zealand university, car travel worldwide is set to be transformed by revolutionary technology developed by The University of Auckland.

In a multi-million dollar deal, Qualcomm, a major US research and development company specialising in wireless communications, has acquired exclusive rights in and to certain wireless electric vehicle charging technology developed by The University of Auckland.

Electric vehicles are predicted to begin an accelerated penetration into the automotive market traditionally dominated by internal combustion engines, by 2015.

Inductive Power Technology (IPT) was pioneered by Professor John Boys and Associate Professors Grant Covic and Udaya Madawala from the University’s Power Electronics Group. They have led the world in developing systems to transmit electric power efficiently across air gaps without using wires.

Qualcomm also acquired the assets and technology of spinout company HaloIPT. The company was set up in a partnership with international engineering firm Arup, the TransTasman Commercialisation Fund and the New Zealand venture Investment Fund’s SCIF program to develop IPT technology commercially for cars by building prototypes, establishing standards and making the technology reliable. HaloIPT’s staff has joined Qualcomm.

The University of Auckland and Auckland UniServices Ltd, the University’s commercial arm, will use the funds generated from the transaction to invest in further research and commercialisation, as well as sharing a portion with the inventors in line with the University’s intellectual property policy.

Qualcomm was impressed by the quality of research at the University and through UniServices will provide ongoing support for IPT research at the University.

University Vice-Chancellor and Chair of the UniServices Board, Professor Stuart McCutcheon, said IPT technology, now set to reduce the cost and environmental impact of motoring on a massive scale, had started out as fundamental research.

"Merely tinkering with plug-in cars, for example, would never have led to Professors Boys and Covic unearthing this fundamentally different technology," Professor McCutcheon said.

"It is an outstanding example of how fundamental curiosity-driven research, developed through painstaking investigation and testing, was brought to market through the region’s leading technology transfer company UniServices. This development path can exist only in a research-intensive globally-connected University. It demonstrates the ability of universities to influence the future in a radical and positive manner, and to bring global benefits.

"The scientific brilliance and diligence of Professor Boys and his colleagues plus the commercial savviness of UniServices make for an unbeatable combination."

"IPT will become the standard technology for electric-powered vehicles. Vehicles fitted with our technology will be able to charge overnight using electricity generated by renewable sources such as wind. Because there is a low demand for electricity at night, little or no extra installed generating capacity will be required to power our fleet of electric vehicles," Dr Peter Lee, Chief Executive of UniServices, said.

"We dealt with Qualcomm because of its track record in establishing the universal global standard for other technologies like mobile phones. The likelihood of the technology being successful or reaching a global market is now more likely with Qualcomm.

"This deal is fantastic news for New Zealand – we are providing access to technology in exchange for payments that will help ensure future investment in New Zealand research. There will be ample opportunity for New Zealand-based companies to become a part of the high technology manufacturing required for these systems.

"These local companies will have the advantage of being close to the source of the technology and access to many generations of engineers who have graduated from our University with an in- depth knowledge of the underlying technology. We are already in discussions with some of them to make sure they are well positioned to capture benefit from this development.

"We will generate financial benefits to further advance IPT technology here in New Zealand and at the University."

Andrew Gilbert, executive vice president of European Innovation Development at Qualcomm, said: "we can look back with pride and pleasure at how our two organisations worked diligently to achieve a wireless power solution.

"In the future I am greatly looking forward to helping develop a long lasting and successful collaboration with The University of Auckland and Auckland UniServices."

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