The KiwiNet Innovation Network has received a substantial vote of confidence with a further three year funding contract from The Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment under The Commercialisation Partner Network (CPN).
KiwiNet is a consortium of Universities, Crown Research Institutes and Crown Entities working together to turn research ideas into commercial value.
“It’s fantastic to have the Government getting behind research commercialisation in New Zealand,” says Dr Bram Smith, General Manager, KiwiNet.
“KiwiNet is about bridging the gap between the Government’s substantial investments into research discovery and business innovation. Our vision is to see kiwi scientists powering business to push the frontiers of high-tech innovation.”
Formed in 2011, KiwiNet now represents some three quarters of New Zealand’s publicly funded science capability.
Over the past year three new Crown Research Institutes have joined KiwiNet as shareholders.
With the addition of ESR, SCION and GNS Science, 15 public research organisations are now working closely together through KiwiNet representing a combined capability of over 7000 researchers.
According to Dr Smith, the Commercialisation Partner Network (CPN) is a $3 million per annum funding programme that was established by MBIE in 2010 with the aim of aggregating the technology transfer activities of New Zealand’s public research organisations so that a science and innovation eco-system might be fostered.
“The CPN was intended to create an integrated approach to commercialisation, where those involved in all aspects of commercialisation work together to create scale, enhance capability and improve collaboration,” adds Dr Kjesten Wiig, National Manager Commercialisation, MBIE.
“The three partners in the CPN: KiwiNet, Return on Science, and CDC Innovation are working together to deliver measurable results in terms of improved and increased commercialisation of publicly funded research.”
At present, KiwiNet runs a range of activities targeting at unlocking the commercial potential of scientific discoveries.
“KiwiNet is driving a campaign to lift science-led innovation,” Dr Smith adds. “The serendipitous nature of scientific discovery drives disruptive innovation that creates commercial opportunities in unexpected areas.
“We are helping businesses to make the most of the cutting-edge technologies emerging from our public research organisations.
“KiwiNet’s key role is to empower the people who commercialise research. To do this we run commercialisation workshops, industry engagement events, and investor introduction activities.
“We provide commercial mentors for projects and investment to support commercialisation.”
A core function for KiwiNet is running an Investment Committee that invests $7.5 million of PreSeed Accelerator Funding from MBIE into new commercial ventures promoted by 12 research organisations.
The KiwiNet Investment Committee is made up of specialist innovation experts and is chaired by Andrew Turnbull, a successful high-tech entrepreneur and angel investor in his own right.
“The investment committee is often the first port of call for new commercial ventures out of research organisations and we certainly see ideas at a very early stage,” Turnbull adds.
“With such a range of technical and commercial experience sitting around the table, the committee are able to offer specialist commercial advice on a huge range of topics.
“We often see projects change direction substantially as they progress along the commercialisation journey. It’s exciting to play a part in guiding these opportunities to commercial success.
“Among our success stories, we have enabled an animal products rendering company to invest in imprinted polymers with Ligar Polymers, we’ve seen an airline invest in machine learning from 11Ants Analytics and we have a battery company investing in nanotechnology. Cawthron Natural Compounds, Invert Robotics and Avalia Immunotherapies have also recently completed major deals.”
Echoing Turnbull’s comments, KiwiNet Chairman, Hon Ruth Richardson adds that at present, the organisation is “only just getting started.”
“The KiwiNet consortium has brought to life a science and innovation eco system where the collaborative culture has become embedded and the commercialisation of research discovery has been advanced,” he adds.
“The shareholders are ambitious to see science power new wealth creation for New Zealand.”
KiwiNet partner organisations include WaikatoLink, Plant & Food Research, Otago Innovation Ltd, Lincoln University, AUT Enterprises, AgResearch, University of Canterbury, Callaghan Innovation, Viclink, Landcare Research, Cawthron Institute, ESR, NIWA, Scion and GNS Science.