In response to a number of company’s market pull, the NZ Product Accelerator funded a PhD scholarship for Eldon Tate at Victoria University of Wellington to research how silver entities could be incorporated and bonded to a variety of materials to develop new antimicrobial coatings and surface treatments.  Silver is a known antimicrobial with a wide range of uses. Eldon’s supervisor was Professor Jim Johnston, who has been a key contributor to the Product Accelerator team since its inception.  Jim and Eldon worked closely with The Polymer Group Ltd, a specialist coatings company in Auckland.

Eldon’s research using a deep capability base in chemistry, demonstrated nano silver could be bonded to a variety of polymeric materials such as resins and plastics. The Product Accelerator during his studies introduced him to a number of potential end users which enabled him to get early insights into commercialisation opportunities.

This insight led to the formation of a start-up company Inhibit Coatings with Dr Eldon Tate becoming their first CEO. Inhibit Coatings first product was a floor coating and trials to date in food processing plants have produced excellent results at controlling Listeria and E. coli outbreaks. (

Both Jim & Eldon were recognised in the recent KiwiNet Commercialisation Awards, with the former winning the BNZ Supreme Award and Eldon the Norman Barry Breakthrough Innovator Award.

Inhibit Coatings has recently had an oversubscribed capital fundraising round which will enable them to expand their product range. They have also just been awarded by MBIE a Covid 19 grant to investigate the efficacy of their technology on viruses.Inhibit Coatings is a great demonstration how fundamental research can be directed by industry needs, which has quickly led to commercialisation via a start-up company. From PhD to CEO in a short time frame-a great exemplar for many PhD students in NZ.

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