by CIO New Zealand

Gov’t boosts funding to commercialise deep tech research

Jul 08, 2019
Cloud ComputingDigital TransformationInnovation

Research organisations uncover often serendipitous scientific discovery that could drive disruptive innovation and create commercial opportunities in unexpected areas

The Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) under The Commercialisation Partner Network (CPN) has granted KiwiNet $2,179,319 million per annum to grow its collaborative model to commercialise science and research.

This is a 93 per cent increase in funding per annum, says KiwiNet CEO James Hutchinson.

KiwiNet has also secured $4,972,460 million investment funding per annum from MBIE’s PreSeed Accelerator Fund, a 45 per cent increase in PreSeed funding, to turn public research discoveries into products and services which can then be successfully brought to market.

KiwiNet was formed in 2008 with four partner organisations and today includes 18 New Zealand universities, Crown Research Institutes and other research organisations that receive public funding, working closely together to turn research ideas into commercial value.

With the recent addition of Massey Ventures Ltd and Health Innovation Hub, KiwiNet members now represent a total combined research expenditure of over $800 million and over 80 per cent of New Zealand’s publicly-funded researchers, which equates to a combined research capability of around 8000 researchers.

“By leveraging the Government’s substantial investment in research discovery, to date we’ve generated a greater than seven-fold return on investment, from $38 million of PreSeed Accelerator Investment from MBIE, with business co-investing a further $20 million alongside this,” says Hutchinson, in a statement.

KiwiNet CEO James Hutchinson

He says KiwiNet has backed over 950 projects involving hundreds of researchers from KiwiNet PreSeed pooling partners, resulting in 383 commercial deals across 167 projects, including 39 start-up companies formed.

Hutchinson says the group has kick-started technologies and companies, which have generated $293 million total known revenue to New Zealand businesses and research organisations.

“We now want to double down on this success.”

KiwiNet runs a range of activities to empower the people who commercialise research and maximise commercial success from the most promising research discoveries across New Zealand, including commercialisation workshops, industry engagement events, investor introduction activities and the annual KiwiNet Research Commercialisation Awards.

KiwiNet also provides commercial mentors for projects and investment to support commercialisation.

“Research organisations uncover often serendipitous scientific discovery that could drive disruptive innovation and create commercial opportunities in unexpected areas,” says Andrew Turnbull, high-tech entrepreneur and head of the KiwiNet Investment Committee.

“We see these ideas at a very early stage and can draw on the specialist technical and commercial experience at the Investment Committee table to offer specialist advice on a huge range of topics,” says Turnbull.

“This guidance, which can often result in projects changing course as they progress to maximise the market potential of the innovation, has played an integral role in creating a strong innovation pipeline.”

He says success stories include spin out companies Hot Lime Labs, a developer of green CO2 technologies for horticulture and Ligar, a developer of molecularly imprinted polymers. Another standout success is forensic softwareESR’s STRmix,which this year took out New Zealand’s top science award, The Prime Minister’s Science Prize.

KiwiNet member organisations and shareholders include WaikatoLink, Plant Food Research, Otago Innovation Ltd, Lincoln University, AUT Ventures, AgResearch, University of Canterbury, Callaghan Innovation, Viclink, Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research, Cawthron Institute, ESR, NIWA, Scion, Malaghan Institute and GNS Science.

Sign up for CIO newsletters for regular updates on CIO news, career tips, views and events. Follow CIO New Zealand on Twitter:@cio_nz