Commercial Mentors

Connecting the right people at the right time

For Research Organisations

Commercial mentors are technology commercialisation experts who are keen to get involved!

Our mentors help public research organisations across the country to accelerate their IP to commercial success and overcome limited tech transfer resources. They can provide expertise and help build capability within your team, shape proposals for PreSeed investment, and provide ongoing, on-the-ground commercialisation support. They can support you with everything from identifying new commercial opportunities to mentoring some very high potential projects.

Services on offer:

  • Triage a project pipeline within the commercialisation unit, helping to evaluate the portfolio, identify opportunities and prioritise them for further work.
  • Advice on how to identify, select and engage with appropriate commercial partners to achieve the objectives of PreSeed funding.
  • Advice and support on putting together appropriate plans to achieve commercial objectives.
  • Advice on planning for use of PreSeed funding to demonstrate a minimum viable prototype of their idea.
  • Advice and support to tap into other sources of funding and investment that will enable the project to be continued once the PreSeed funding is completed.
  • A mentor may take on the Commercial Lead role including on-going market validation, business and commercial planning.
  • Support for your project team in presenting the results of their work to the KiwiNet Investment Committee, either in person or via telephone, and be available to answer the Committee’s questions.

For Researches

Commercial mentors help develop the commercial aspiration and core capability of KiwiNet’s Emerging Innovators.

Mentors develop an on-going relationship with the Emerging Innovator, challenging and inspiring them to overcome obstacles and embrace opportunities they encounter on their journey to achieving investor readiness.

Services on offer:

  • Help to set appropriate objectives and an execution plan for using the Emerging Innovator Programme funding to demonstrate a minimum viable prototype of their idea.
  • Advice on how to identify and engage with appropriate commercial partners to achieve the objectives of the Programme Funding.
  • Advice and support on how to tap into other sources of funding and investment that will enable the project to be continued once their Programme experience is completed.
  • Support the Emerging Innovator to present the results of their work to and answer questions from the Investment Committee.
  • Coaching in commercial principles and guidance in how to achieve their commercial goals; (not to do the work for them).
  • Trusted advice, acting as guide, and a 'critical friend'. A Mentor is not responsible for the ultimate success of the project. They can also act as 'devil's advocate' – challenging ideas and encouraging discussion on the idea.
  • The benefit of their experience, knowledge, skills and networks.

Commercial Mentor Case Studies

Merv Jones

– Fast tracked ESR’s portfolio review

With a rich history of scientific discovery, ESR had a wide range of projects at various stages of maturity and needed to quickly identify which ones should be fast tracked for commercialisation funding and support…

Will Barker

– Championed Dr. Vlatko Materić’s launch of Hot Lime Labs

“It’s always hardest to find the first person to step up and stand by you…”
Dr. Vlatko Materić’s, Founder and CEO, Hot Lime Labs

Find out how a KiwiNet Commercial Mentor can partner with you today.

Dr Merv Jones


Dr Merv Jones

Commercial Mentor for ESR

KiwiNet appointed Dr Merv Jones to assist in the evaluation of commercial opportunities. Merv is a company director and senior executive with wide experience in industrial science, commercialisation and governance, and a successful leadership record of growth and profitability in Australia, New Zealand and Asia. He also has significant experience working as a scientist within both the public and private sectors.

After an initial review of 32 projects, Merv and Hamish Findlay, (then) General Manager - Commercial and Business Development at ESR, created a short list of 9 projects for deeper analysis. Merv, Hamish and other ESR team members had face-to-face meetings with each project sponsor.

Merv drafted a summary of each of the projects and provided preliminary thoughts on their commercialisation potential and their applicability of KiwiNet PreSeed funding. Three projects were identified as having significant commercial potential: one as a candidate for the KiwiNet Emerging Innovator Programme, one ESR ran a workshop on to help drive it forward, and one progressed to Tier Two PreSeed investment.

Will Barker

Dr. Vlatko Materić

Hot Lime Labs

Will Barker

Commercial Mentor for Dr. Vlatko Materić

As a researcher at Callaghan Innovation Dr. Vlatko Materić developed a CO2 capture material which significantly boosts glasshouse vegetable and flower yields.  The Hot Lime system helps growers to enrich the greenhouse atmosphere in CO2, allowing them to boost yields by up to 20% in a glasshouse environment, in a sustainable and more cost-effective way than existing methods.

This has the potential to increase grower's revenues by $40-80k per annum per hectare compared to using other sources such as natural gas or liquid CO2. The global market opportunity for the technology is estimated at over $800m per annum and is growing rapidly.

As part of Vlatko’s experience in the KiwiNet Emerging Innovator Programme, Will Barker (formally of Lanzatech), was assigned to mentor him to boost the commercial outcomes of his discoveries. Working with Will, Vlatko was able to put into practice the main commercialisation concepts: establishing a market pain, articulating a value proposition, devising a minimum viable product, identifying a unique selling proposition and developing an investment case.

Besides the immediate practical commercialisation experience gained through these activities, Will provided Vlatko with a new and greatly expanded perspective on how these individual components combine together in the technology commercialisation process. This led to a step change in Vlatko’s commercialisation capabilities.

In the space of just two short years Vlatko is now realising his dream, having founded a start-up company as a commercialisation vehicle for his discoveries. Hot Lime Labs has already attracted significant private investment and is set to take on the world with eager early adopters lined up for commercial trials. Vlatko also went on to win the 2018 Norman Barry Foundation Breakthrough Innovator Award at the KiwiNet Awards.

Vlatko comments, “Will’s guidance greatly increased my appetite for, and chances of, succeeding in this venture. Without the KiwiNet Emerging Innovator programme I wouldn’t have been able to turn my research idea into a commercial venture. It’s always hardest to find the first person to step up and stand by you. I now have an experienced group of people wrapped around the venture along with the funding required to ensure the best chance of success.”