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Building Innovation In NZ Companies

Building Innovation In NZ Companies; Growing The Knowledge Economy

More than 100 of New Zealand’s brightest brains are working on research projects to develop innovative technology for New Zealand businesses.

Figures just released show Technology New Zealand awarded 128 Technology for Industry Fellowships, totalling more than $1.7 m, in the seven months from July 2000 – January 2001

While applications are running at a similar level to the previous year, an increase in funding (up $500,000 to $3.5million pa), offers even bigger potential to match up innovative companies with intellectual muscle.

The Fellowships are designed to help build technological capabilities within business. Funding enables university students to carry out business-focussed research allied to their degree. It also offers opportunities for experienced researchers to contribute to a company’s research initiatives.

“Companies get access to bright young students and through them develop good on-going links with university research facilities,” says Tony Hadfield of the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology. “Companies can also tap into the specific experience of individual researchers, for example someone on secondment from a CRI (Crown Research Institute), to help build technological capability within the company.

“In a typical project of around 1-3 years, the company gains a huge leap in technological capability through having the appropriate expertise able to focus entirely on a particular project. And for the university-based students, there is a spin-off benefit of applying the research towards their thesis and the significant experience of working within industry.”

Mr Hadfield says the majority of the students rate commercial experience gained as a Fellow as a key factor in fast-tracking into industry and jobs.

Since its inception (as the GRIF programme) in 1994, the Technology for Industry Fellowships Scheme has funded 450 Fellows. More than 300 companies have taken part in the Scheme, and links have been developed with every university in New Zealand, as well as some international research institutions.

Research projects have been as varied as understanding the activities of slow release drug delivery, developing a crunchier potato crisp, designing sails for Team New Zealand, finding antibacterial properties of honey and developing tools for improving the environment of urban waterways.

“A number of Fellows have gone on to other positions in the companies where they carried out their research and we are seeing them return as company mentors for a new generation,” says Tony Hadfield.

Criterion Group is just one of a number of companies that is reaping the benefits of ‘bolt-on’ R&D by young researchers. Michael Norton, now Manager of Corporate and Information
Services within Criterion, is a strong advocate of Technology New Zealand and the value of student-power in research. His research work for his Masterate was helped by funding from Technology New Zealand in the early 1990s and the process from both the company and Michael’s perspective was the template on which the graduate funding scheme was based.

-ends-

* Contact: Tony Hadfield, Foundation for Research, Science and Technology, 04 917 7812 or 025 454 095

Notes for editors:

* Technology for Industry Fellowships (TIF) is administered by Technology New Zealand, part of the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology.

*There are three main categories: TIF Undergraduate, TIF Education (Masters and PhD students) and TIF Graduates (experienced researchers who may be seconded from a CRI, University or other organisation, or who may have special research skills or capabilities of use to a specific project.)

*Funding is provided to the company for salary costs of the Undergraduate and Graduate Fellows, and the TIF Education (Masters and PhD) students receive a scholarship via the tertiary institution.

* $3.5 m is available for Fellowships.


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