Hamilton, New Zealand - 5 June 2013
The most exciting discoveries from New Zealand's publicly funded research will be turned into commercial reality under a new allocation of Government investment. The Kiwi Innovation Network (KiwiNet), a consortium of research organisations working together to increase the scale and impact of science-based innovation, has received a $7.5 million investment over the next three years to increase its commercialisation endeavours.
The investment comes from the PreSeed Accelerator Fund administered by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment targeted at pursuing commercial application of publicly funded research discoveries. Just over $15 million was allocated under a contestable process to five organisations.
KiwiNet has grown over the past five years from four to 12 partnering universities, crown research institutes and government funded research organisations which now encompass 4300 scientists or 60% of New Zealand's total.
The KiwiNet consortium has allocated $6.7 million into more than 50 projects during this time across a broad range of applications such as battery electrode technologies for hybrid cars, robots for remote inspection of milk silos and novel food drying processes.
"KiwiNet continues to grow from strength to strength based on the approach that New Zealand's science system can achieve a bigger impact by working together than by working separately," says its general manager, Dr Bram Smith.
"The government's PreSeed funding is an essential tool for public research organisations as they work to create more commercial benefits for New Zealand. Such funding represents a small fraction of the overall science investment, but without it many good ideas would fail to see the light of day."
KiwiNet's growth and increase in membership shows a groundswell of support among the country's research community and reflects a shared vision of a highly collaborative innovation system for New Zealand.
"We're a small country," says Dr Smith. "By sharing resources, contacts, routes to market and commercialisation successes and lessons learnt we leverage off each other and achieve significant synergies beyond trying to do everything alone. The willingness of KiwiNet's member organisations to pool PreSeed funding and allocate it on the merit of individual projects shows a genuine desire to maximise the commercial outcomes for New Zealand."
David Hughes, Group GM Commercial at Plant & Food Research says New Zealand has already seen great outcomes from pooled KiwiNet PreSeed funding.
"A significant number of exciting ventures have started and licensing revenue has been generated," he says. "The increased visibility, dialogue and interaction made possible by KiwiNet will only improve the number of quality projects as we see more opportunities and combine our intellectual property."
Professor Charles Eason, Chief Executive of the Cawthron Institute, a new KiwiNet partner says, "Cawthron was keen to be part of the networking and collaboration in research commercialisation that comes from being part of the KiwiNet family. We have a number of technologies that without the support of KiwiNet wouldn't advance as rapidly. We're very pleased to see KiwiNet receive these PreSeed funds to support early-stage commercialisation."
The organisations partnering to pool their PreSeed Funding through KiwiNet include WaikatoLink, Plant & Food Research, Lincoln University, AUT Enterprises, AgResearch, University of Canterbury, Callaghan Innovation, Viclink, Landcare Research, Cawthron Institute, ESR and NIWA.