Christchurch Rebuild Innovators Celebrated On World IP Day
This Friday 26 April we’ll be celebrating World IP Day. The theme “Creativity: The Next Generation” holds strong significance to us here in Christchurch in the wake of the quakes. From our office on the edge of the city’s slowly diminishing ‘Red Zone’ this special day has given us cause for reflection and optimism.
While most of us have focussed on survival, resilience and recovery over the last couple of years, we were starting to see signs of inspiring Kiwi ingenuity emerging from the early stages of rebuilding.
One of the interesting aspects of intellectual property work is that we see patterns and trends from the outset. From construction techniques and equipment to building fit-out innovations and green technologies, innovators in Canterbury and across New Zealand have been rising to the occasion and finding positive opportunities to build a brighter future out of the rubble.
Drainage and Roading NZ is one such example. The company’s Operations Manager Colin Sloss is an expert in all things asphalt and landscaping. They have been instrumental in many SCIRT (Stronger Christchurch Infrastructure Rebuild Team) repair jobs around the city, and through that work saw an opportunity to improve methods of ‘trench shoring’. When workers need to access pipes or cables underground, a trench is dug. In order to prevent wall collapse and to protect the people working in the trench, the walls are shored up – either by inserting a preformed box structure with solid side walls, or by driving interlinking steel sheets into the ground (known as ‘sheet piling’). Both of these traditional methods have advantages and disadvantages including depth, setup speed and safety.
Colin designed a new method that involved creating a box structure with struts instead of walls, and using apertures to secure the sheets – achieving the best advantages of both previous methods. He says the new system is 30% faster and ideal for use in longer or deeper trenches. Despite the fact that the concept has been employed extensively on Drainage and Roading’s local projects, Colin has had no time to date to think about manufacturing or commercialisation opportunities based on the patent that CreateIP filed earlier this year. However, he has already had enquiries and a visit from an interested Dutch construction expert who wanted to see the new method in action.
Innovation in boxing foundations (used in concrete pouring) is another case in point. Serial entrepreneur Dion Kerr has worked in demolition and construction, tiling and recycling; trade jobs that put him in contact with a lot of builders. After the February 2011 earthquake, Dion got lots of direct feedback on building sites regarding the limitations of, and builders’ frustration with, traditional methods of concrete pouring – precision work usually done with wooden pegs by several highly skilled craftsmen.
He went on to spend several months researching a better way to lay concrete foundations and came up with a new concept to contain freshly poured concrete in the correct position while it sets. Dion’s new pre-formed boxing kit of plastic moulded sleeves which connect to aluminium stakes and panels can be setup by an average person in far less time, and fine adjustment is easy. Plus it’s completely reusable – unlike traditional treated timber which needs to be thrown away after 2-3 uses.
Dion has established a new company, Mr Box Ltd, to manufacture, sell and hire out the devices. The prototype is currently in testing with a major Christchurch house builder while they refine commercialisation plans to take it to the world. Patents, designs and trade marks are in process for the new innovations.
These are just two inspiring examples of IP creativity; there are many more great ideas underway as we tackle the challenges and opportunities resulting from the rebuilding of a new vision of our city. On April 26, we’ll be raising a glass in their honour.