Future Forum Awards recognise NZ’s leading ‘metalminds’

By Dr Troy Coyle, HERA CEO

Innovation, sustainability, and diversity were championed at the Future Forum Awards in early May. At the HERA Future Forum Nation Dinner at the Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū, the awards, sponsored by New Zealand Steel, celebrate and showcase the impact top innovators and changemakers are making across Aotearoa. The awards are aligned with the Future Forum Conference, which is about building a tribe of metalminds and casting a collective gaze to the future so the industry can prepare for disruption.

Awardees include longstanding industry leaders alongside newer leaders and up-and-coming talent; all have demonstrated exceptional vision and ambition for their respective fields. Many projects, initiatives, and research programmes have moved industries forward and nurtured the values that will ensure we are working cohesively in service of a better tomorrow.

The 2023 award winners and scholarship recipients are:

Keith Smith Memorial Award – Geoff Bird, structural technical development manager at Beca. Over his long career, Bird’s work has been instrumental in the widespread use of structural steel in multi-story buildings. He is a significant knowledge benefactor, participating in HERA’s Steel Research Panel and SCNZ’s technical working groups.

Next Gen Leadership, Leading Metalmind Award – Mike Ryan, GM of operations at Farra Engineering. Ryan impressed the judges with the breadth of projects for which he was able to achieve the seemingly impossible, which earned him the informal title ‘guru of solving crazy engineering problems for the hydro industry’. His work at the Burrinjuck Hydropower Station in Australia avoided a costly shutdown, saving $15 million and extending its life by 15 years.  

Whanake Scholarship – Lydia Frater who is studying engineering at the University of Canterbury and who impressed HERA with her passion to support wahine Māori who will come after her.

Steel Research Student of the Year Award – University of Auckland’s Fanqin Meng. Meng’s research is important to understanding structural steel’s performance in severe fire, in particular the performance of beam to column sub assemblages in gravity resisting systems of steel structures, which has led to more realistic strength reduction factors for columns in fires.

Fab 4.0 Award – Farra Engineering (Welding Technology). The Dunedin-based engineering company’s quality work and improvements to processes and systems have led to a reduction in the number of hours required to complete the fabrication of complex machines, and more importantly a significant reduction in rework cost.

Fab 4.0 Award – MJH Engineering (Welding Skills Development) developed an in-house training programme to recruit, train, and employ skilled welders in conjunction with the utilisation of CNC technology to improve productivity. This has led to a significant reduction in the time it takes for graduates to receive their welding tickets and become qualified with the main welding accreditations.

Innov8impact Award – Dr Shahab Ramhormozian for his project “Sustainable Earthquake Resilient Buildings for a Better Future.” This $9.47 million Endeavour-funded research program will develop systems to prevent structural damage to buildings under severe earthquakes or associated fires.

Innov8change Award – Tīra, for exporting spiral welding innovations. The details of this innovation cannot be shared as they are proprietary.

Innov8rerehua (steel is beautiful) Award – McConnell Dowell, Aurecon and Eastbridge. McConnell Dowell, contracted by Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency, replaced the 105-year-old Mangere Bridge with a new 260m long, stunning piece of structural engineering. Designed by Aurecon and predominantly fabricated by Eastbridge, Ngā Hau Māngere connects the communities of Onehunga and Māngere Bridge on either side of the Manukau Harbour.

Innov8resilience Award – WSP and Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency.

Innov8taiao (steel is sustainable) Award – Beca. The “Adaptive reuse of steel in the Civic Administration Building” project resulted in 100 percent reuse of the 1,900 tonnes of structural steel frame and new lease of life as high-end central city apartments. The carbon footprint reduction was 6,150 tonnes of CO2 equivalent emissions.