The KiwiNet Investment Committee (IC) oversees the allocation of all PreSeed investment. The committee meets monthly to review commercial opportunities, provide feedback and allocate investment funds.
Investment Committee Chair
Debra, the Chair of the Investment Committee, draws on 15 years of strategic leadership in the innovation sector. With a commitment to fostering excellence, she challenges organisations to reach their potential. Her engineering background forms the foundation for her approach to complex problems, offering innovative solutions. Her dedication to evidence-based decision-making, coupled with strategic and analytical skills, has been pivotal in supporting game-changing technologies in New Zealand. Recognised for her significant contributions, she received the Arch Angel Award in 2017, acknowledging her impact on early-stage investors and entrepreneurs through governance skill development and capital-raising support. Debra also plays a key role on KiwiNet's board.
Andrew has crafted a unique career spanning research, commercialisation, and investment. Beginning with a veterinary science degree, he progressed through leadership roles in research institutes and R&D organisations. In 2005, he co-founded BioPacific Partners, a pioneering venture fund in food, agriculture, and health. Andrew's strategic pivot in 2014 expanded the fund's reach globally. His expertise extends to various advisory roles, reflecting his influence in agricultural biotechnology, innovation, and national research networks. A seasoned speaker and educator, Andrew passionately shares his knowledge, fostering collaborations, and advancing impactful innovations.
Co-Founder, GBS Ventures
Brigitte Smith, Co-Founder and Managing Partner at GBS Ventures, brings two decades of venture capital, business strategy, and startup operations experience. Managing GBS's life science specialised venture capital funds since 1998, Brigitte has steered investments totalling $450 million. Her academic journey includes a B. Chem Eng (Honours) from the University of Melbourne, an MBA from Harvard Business School, and a MALD from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. Brigitte's venture capital perspective offers valuable insights into the life science sector, witnessing technologies' full venture capital investment cycle, from conception to commercial adoption.
Nick is an executive with extensive experience in IT, telecommunications, security, and electronics. Managing large, complex systems globally, he has defined and implemented company strategies across multiple industries. Nick's deep engagement with the World Wide Web led him to spearhead strategies for various organisations to meet their objectives. His adept management style combines internal teams and external vendors to implement visionary approaches. Nick's multi-industry expertise positions him as an invaluable asset in strategic, operational, financial, and project management disciplines.
Chair Board of Directors at Dexibit
Dana is an experienced angel investor dedicated to supporting a transition to a low-emission future. Her career spans strategic planning and innovation in sectors like electric utilities, industrial automation, defence, biotech, and consumer goods. With a Computer Science degree and an MBA, Dana has been involved in science commercialisation since 2008. Her diverse experience enables her to distil complex technology solutions into clear market metrics, guiding investments in technology startups. Dana, awarded the Arch Angel in 2022, currently serves as the Head of Innovation Partnerships at Ara Ake, New Zealand's Centre for Future Energy.
Commercialisation Manager, Otago Innovation
Alex, Commercialisation Manager at Otago Innovation, is a seasoned professional in the biotechnology and technology transfer sectors. With expertise in patent law, R&D, business development, licensing, and venture capital, she passionately contributes to health and animal welfare. Serving on KiwiNet's Emerging Innovator Committee, Pipeline Committee, and Investment Committee, Alexandra's commitment to science and innovation is evident. Her caring nature extends to her dedication to people and animals, reflecting her passion for improving health and wellbeing through impactful science and innovation initiatives.
Innovation Manager, Scion
Amanda is a fierce advocate for commercialisation within the private investment sector. Leading Scion’s Innovation Team, she facilitates the commercialisation of new products and technologies, ensuring impactful outcomes. With a diverse background in applied science across forestry, engineering, and coatings industries, Amanda's governance skills and business acumen contribute to Scion’s innovation and commercialisation planning. Passionate about seeing science reach its true commercial and social potential, Amanda also serves on KiwiNet’s board, showing her dedication to realising the broader societal benefits of research commercialisation.
Chief Executive, AUT Ventures
Michael, Chief Executive at AUT Ventures, adeptly merges research and commercialisation at AUT. With a diverse background spanning automotive, energy, software-as-a-service, and intellectual property, he served as an Investment Manager at Callaghan Innovation. There, he guided businesses in R&D planning, grant investments, and innovation strategies. Holding an MBA (Distinction) from the University of Edinburgh and a PhD in Robotics from the University of Canterbury, Michael is a self-professed geek with a fervour for engineering and science. His decisive and empathetic leadership positions him as a valuable contributor, navigating the complexities of technology ventures with clarity and passion.
Director, Lincoln University
Travis, Director of the Research Management Office at Lincoln University, is a trailblazer in commercialising advancements in plant pest control. Prioritising biopesticide production scaling and navigating New Zealand's startup landscape, Travis seamlessly bridges research with market-ready solutions. A Council member of Better Border Security, he actively advances plant-based border biosecurity. With a track record of successful collaborations and commercialisation endeavours, Travis's unique expertise positions him as a strategic leader in driving innovation and pragmatic applications in the field of plant pest control.
CEO, Wellington UniVentures
Pierre, with a rich background in leadership, growth, and culture management, specialises in delivering and protecting disruptive technologies. Over 20 years, he has efficiently managed teams to bring innovative products, services, and technologies to market, resulting in paradigm shifts. Pierre's expertise spans SaaS, marketplaces, smart cities, data analysis, biotechnology, healthcare, animal health, renewables, and sustainable development. His diverse skill set and leadership roles, from board positions to CEO and COO, make him an asset in managing and advancing innovative and disruptive technologies within startups and larger organisations.
Commercial Development Manager, Cawthron Institute
Eric, Commercial Development Manager at Cawthron Institute, is instrumental in amplifying Cawthron's scientific impact. Leading initiatives for strategy, innovation, and commercialisation, he supports organisational strategy refinement and drives culture change. Eric manages the commercialisation pipeline, identifies opportunities, and develops customer management, playing a vital role in creating high-impact industry partnerships. His technical skills and extensive experience contribute to the development of frameworks for intellectual property commercialisation, making him a key figure in advancing scientific research impact and industry partnerships at the Cawthron Institute.
General Manager – Business Services, ESR
Mark, General Manager of Business Services at ESR, has extensive company management experience, brings a strong background in sales, marketing, operations, and project management across diverse industries. Specialising in company management, strategic planning, and large project management, Mark's expertise ensures the successful delivery of technology from academia to the market. His unconventional journey into research commercialisation, co-founding a business, and roles in research organisations enriches his approach. Mark emphasises negotiated deals that benefit all parties involved, fostering a positive and collaborative environment within the Investment Committee.
Commercial and Business Partnerships Manager, GNS
Sheena Thomas, Commercial and Business Partnerships Manager at GNS Science, leads a team connecting science and impact. Her role involves partnering with organisations and industry on applied research, bringing New Zealand's research skills, knowledge, and IP to international markets. With a focus on low-carbon fuels, Sheena's strategic leadership extends to sustainable energy solutions, including hydrogen, biofuels, and sustainable aviation fuels. Her diverse experience, including a previous role as Strategy Lead at Z Energy, positions Sheena as a pivotal contributor to bridging science and commercial outcomes, making impactful strides in New Zealand's research commercialisation landscape.
CEO Massey Ventures
Mark , the CEO of Massey Ventures and former Director of Business Development and Commercialisation at Massey University, possesses extensive company management experience. His background in sales, marketing, operations, and business development across various industries enriches his role in advancing technology from academia to the market. With a particular interest in innovation and research commercialisation, Mark has played a key role in establishing new companies and contributing to successful exits. His negotiation skills, collaborative approach, and understanding of both researcher and business perspectives make Mark an asset in the research commercialisation space. Mark also serves on KiwiNet's board.
IP & Commercialisation Manager, University of Canterbury
Rebecca, IP and Commercialisation Manager at the University of Canterbury, has a passion for supporting entrepreneurial researchers to transform innovative science into global impact. Leveraging 12+ years of experience in commercialisation, product development, and leadership, she draws on her scientific research background. Rebecca's journey from academia to an early-stage startup, Ison Science, provided insights into the challenges and rewards of taking Kiwi innovation to the world. Her unique understanding of both academic and startup drivers enables her to connect researchers and entrepreneurs, contributing to Aotearoa New Zealand’s diverse deep tech sector.
Director of Innovation & Impact, University of Waikato
Rosanne, Director of Innovation & Impact at the University of Waikato, excels in steering strategic initiatives, leading change, and driving commercialisation efforts. With leadership roles at Auckland University of Technology, Auckland UniServices Ltd, Industrial Research Ltd, and URS NZ Ltd, she has a passion for the synergy between research and the commercial sector. Rosanne's commitment is evident in her open and innovative approach to current ideas and partnerships, fostering genuine collaboration. Her impact is marked by shaping strategic directions and successfully spearheading commercialisation initiatives, making her a driving force in the field.
Commercialisation Manager, AgResearch
Dougal, Commercialisation Manager at AgResearch, brings over 20 years of experience in working with and managing New Zealand companies. His expertise in strategic consultation, international commercialisation, human-centred design thinking, and collaboration with NZ Inc reflects his commitment to co-innovation in the food, fibre, and agritech sectors. With a background in private and public sectors, Dougal's leadership extends to foreign direct investment, trade, and economic development. His roles in-market, capturing market trends and networks, highlight his dedication to integrating design thinking approaches for successful market needs
Chief Innovation Expertise Officer, Callaghan Innovation
Cliff, Chief Innovation Expertise Officer at Callaghan Innovation, is an experienced leader with a proven ability to perform strategically and operationally. His adept leadership style is characterised by his ability to take control of problem areas, drive change management, and build highly engaged, effective cross-functional teams. Cliff's leadership experience, spanning investigations, analysis, project management, people leadership, and change management, positions him as a key influencer in delivering innovative solutions.
General Manager – Business Development, Plant & Food Research
Collaborating closely with scientists, Peter Cook, a former scientist himself, shares their passion for impact. As a seasoned commercialisation professional at Plant & Food Research, he excels in aligning viable business models with scientists' missions to expedite impactful pathways for innovations. With a diverse career, including a postdoc at the University of Oxford, Peter gained insights into the research policy space in Australia and contributed to global projects like the World Mosquito Program at Monash University. His commitment to advancing technologies for sustainability in the food and fibre industries is evident in his journey within Aotearoa New Zealand's research ecosystem.