KiwiNet News 15 December 2013

KiwiNet momentum transforms its vision into reality

15 December 2013

From small beginnings since its inception in 2009, KiwiNet has moved rapidly beyond its establishment phase as the consortium drives to maximise the commercial impact of publicly funded research.

KiwiNet was founded around a vision to create a highly collaborative innovation ecosystem in New Zealand with strong alignment between research and business to drive economic growth.

Dr Bram Smith, General Manager of KiwiNet believes the organisation has never been in a better position to turn this vision into a reality stating, "The current environment is receptive to new approaches, however, time is short and expectations are high. The decisions we make now will help shape a dramatically new culture of innovation in New Zealand".

KiwiNet has helped energise the sector and we relish the task ahead as more organisations choose to commercialisation business in collaboration. We are an open door; we enjoy working across boundaries and creating events that bring networks alive.

The support from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) and from public research organisations that is so critical to KiwiNet's success is continuing to grow as evidence accumulates of the benefits of the collaborative model.

In 2013 there has been a surge in research organisation participation in the KiwiNet Investment Committee, which now has representation from 67% of New Zealand researchers. Through KiwiNet the group secured $7.5 million of PreSeed Accelerator Funding (PreSeed) over 3 years from MBIE. This money is targeted specifically to turning research ideas into commercial ventures.

The increase in partnering organisations from the original 4 in 2009 (then known as UniCom) to 13 today has resulted in a substantial increase in the KiwiNet pipeline, with 132 projects now being shaped for commercial success. Today KiwiNet comprises 13 Universities and Crown Research Entities and agencies including WaikatoLink, Plant & Food Research, Otago Innovation Ltd, Lincoln University, AUT Enterprises, AgResearch, University of Canterbury, Callaghan Innovation, Viclink, Landcare Research, Cawthron Institute, ESR and NIWA. In the past year, KiwiNet has also recruited 5 new staff and has become much more hands-on with the pipeline management.

Partnerships have grown, the pipeline has grown, and KiwiNet's focus on people and their connections has seen it drive to strengthen networks and empower people to commercialise research. This year alone KiwiNet has:

  • hosted 1 national and 3 regional commercialisation forums, attended by over 180 technology transfer professionals
  • launched the annual KiwiNet Research Commercialisation Awards, with over 150 delegates
  • trained over 200 students and researchers
  • collaborated on 3 industry foresighting events and platform initiatives, connecting over 200 researchers and industry representatives
  • showcased emerging opportunities to investors.

"However, ultimately what really matters is our ability to demonstrate that these activities result in economic impact," Smith states. "Over the past 5 years the KiwiNet Investment committee has continued to expand its portfolio, investing $7.1 million into 184 projects that have resulted in 93 jobs created 13 companies and over $5.4 million private co-investment. This portfolio now has the potential to generate economic benefit to New Zealand worth over $206 million."

To compete in the emerging global knowledge economy we must also use our scale to our advantage. Changes are underway in New Zealand's science system to overcome the fragmentation that exists in our innovation system and instead 'hunt as a pack' for commercial opportunities on the global stage.

The 13 organisations in the KiwiNet consortium have taken the lead in setting a new direction for commercialisation in New Zealand. Having successfully created an organisation in KiwiNet that is recognised internationally as an exemplar of national collaboration, the challenge now is to build on this opportunity and establish New Zealand as a global leader in research commercialisation. The goodwill of the consortium and industry partners, underpinned by clear strategic direction are key ingredients to both KiwiNet's success to date and for the future.