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Bio Commerce Centre opens to grow exports

March 16, 2005

Bio Commerce Centre opens to grow exports from research

A $3 million business incubator and support centre opens next week that will harness the world class commercial opportunities emanating from New Zealand’s largest concentration of bio science institutions and take them to the global marketplace.

The Bio Commerce Centre, which will be a visible, business friendly entrance to the Manawatu – home to internationally respected bioscience institutions for nearly 80 years – will officially open on March 22. It is located in the Fitzherbert Science Park in Palmerston North, adjacent to Massey University and with a number of Crown Research Institutes (CRIs) as its neighbours.

The Centre’s CEO, Ralph Schneideman, says a very high proportion of research results emanating from the Manawatu are currently licensed and sold off overseas or fail to make the leap from research and development to being sales and market driven.

“What The Bio Commerce Centre will do is to help retain more of the wealth that these ideas generate for the people who develop them, the companies that they establish surrounding their ideas and for New Zealand, by servicing or manufacturing locally.”

Start-up businesses or enterprises coming out of the surrounding business community and Manawatu scientific entities, such as Massey University and the CRIs, will be evaluated and the ones found to hold potential will be selected and guided through the commercialisation process in The Bio Commerce Centre business incubator.

“Part of the reason why the Centre will be effective is that it is a half-way house – a neutral environment in which scientific thinking can be exposed to business and investor thinking and vice versa. This will greatly enhance the development of successful business surrounding the research and innovation that the Manawatu is respected for globally.”

In terms of that high jump from research and development to being market driven, The Bio Commerce Centre will provide specialists in international marketing.

Mr Schneideman said The Bio Commerce Centre was the 10th funded by New Zealand Trade and Enterprise and most similar to the incubators established in the Waikato and at Otago.

“The key point of difference that we have with these incubators is that here in the Manawatu we have a depth of capability in plant and food biology as well as world class animal health capability – eg: Massey University is one of a handful of veterinary schools outside the United States that is accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association – and our region’s key biotechnology research platforms are plant, food and health based.”

He added that The Bio Commerce Centre had a natural network with other key incubators around New Zealand and this increased the likelihood of successfully bringing innovations to market. “The sum of the parts is greater than the whole,” Mr Schneideman said.

Manawatu businesses will be able to use The Bio Commerce Centre as well, for international marketing, investment advice, or to organise contract research.

Mr Schneideman, New Zealand born and a graduate of the University of California Los Angeles and the American Graduate School of International Business, has spent much of his career off-shore in banking, finance, company turn-around management, product development and commercialisation.

He said because there are few “angel” benefactors of high net wealth in New Zealand, companies have to seek out expensive venture capital.

“It is crucial therefore that they are market ready to take on this level of investment,” he said.

One of The Bio Commerce Centre’s board members is Chris Kelly, the Chief Executive of Landcorp Farming, who also has extensive experience in commercialising new product.

“In five years time I would like to see four or five companies spun-out of The Bio Commerce Centre that are commercially successful start-ups standing alone,” he says.

There is space for a total of 10 companies in The Bio Commerce Centre which has been established in a refurbished building that started out as a working dairy factory in 1927 and has been home to a range of fledgling scientific operations, including the young New Zealand Pharmaceuticals (NZP) company. Two clients have already signed up – Crown Research Institute’s Grasslanz Technology and Waituna Brewing Co, which uses fermented leaves from the native kawakawa tree to flavour its beer.

The Bio Commerce Centre is a major regional initiative driven by the economic development agency, Vision Manawatu, and funded by New Zealand Trade and Enterprise, Massey University, Palmerston North City Council and the Central Energy Trust.


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