LESANZ Online Hybrid Conference 2021 - Wrap Up

LES Australia & New Zealand successfully hosted its first ever online hybrid conference on 5-7th May with around 130 attendees. The conference was originally scheduled to be held in Christchurch NZ in April 2020 but, as for most conferences last year, had to be postponed due to the global pandemic. The rescheduled conference was held online accommodating live attendance across multiple time-zones from Western Australia to NZ, combined with local in-person Welcome Drinks in each region.

We originally chose the theme of Reinvention: Fresh Approaches and New Beginnings to reflect the opportunity that Christchurch had to reinvent itself and do things in completely different ways following the devastating earthquakes a decade ago. In our new COVID environment the theme of finding new approaches and new ways of doing things remained completely relevant.

The conference was opened with a Maori welcome followed by opening addresses from LESANZ President Duncan Ferguson and LESI President Audrey Yap. Conference Chair Sue Muggleston gave a welcome speech and introduced Keynote Speaker Miriana Stephens, Director, Wakatū Incorporation (pictured), an intergenerational indigenous Maori business that has a 500-year business plan aligned with their goals of preserving and enhancing social economic and environmental benefits for their people.

Day 1 sessions focussed on Revolutionary Technologies that are Revolutionizing Industries, including AI and virtual/augmented reality, chatbots and virtual farming, driverless vehicles and self-flying air taxis. The speakers below with Conference Committee member Wilson Huang are: Tim Warren, CEO & Co-Founder, Ambit; Aliesha Staples, CEO, StaplesVR; Daniel Hearn, Head of IP, Halter. 

Anna Kominik, Asia Pacific Director, Wisk; Dr Mahmood Hikmet, Head of R&D, Ohmio are pictured here with Conference Chair and LESANZ Vice President, Sue Muggleston, demonstrated the possibilities of these technologies and discussed common issues such as addressing safety, public perception and regulatory hurdles, as well as managing IP whilst partnering to bring complex technologies to market.

Day 2 sessions explored the development of a new industry (medicinal cannabis) as well as the reinvention of wool to establish a high-tech industry. They also looked at the Sustainable/Clean Tech Economy including biorefining of precious metals and plant-based biopolymers to replace those from petro-chemicals. Speakers pictured below included with LESANZ Past President, Simon Rowell, Manu Caddie, Kaihautu – Innovation & Regulation, Rua BioScience; Mark Lucas, CEO, Cannasouth Bioscience Ltd; Steven Notaro, Head of Legal & Regulatory Affairs, Cann Group Ltd.  The following sessions included Barbara Nebel, CEO, thinkstep Australasia; Will Barker, Founder & CEO, Mint Innovation; Sarah Heine, CEO, Biopolymer Network; and Paul Sapsford.

Our Workshop Wednesday provided 2 online workshops covering Indigenous IP (presenters Lynell Tuffery Huria, Principal, AJ Park and Stacey Whitiora, Group GM Maori, Plant & Food Research) and IP Valuation (presenter Simon Rowell, Innovation Liberation Front & Past LESANZ President).

Our sponsors were AJ Park, FB Rice and Clarivate. The conference organising committee (along with our farewell image of delegates are pictured below) included Sue Muggleston (IP Manager, Plant & Food Research), Melissa Wong (Business Development Coordinator, Lincoln Agritech), Wilson Huang (Commercialisation Manager, Plant & Food Research), Christine Egan (Special Counsel, AJ Park) and Beth Benson (our amazing LESANZ Secretariat).

LESANZ has now produced the on-demand access to these workshops and presentations, get in touch with our Secretariat [email protected] for details.

Sue Muggleston - Conference Chair