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Business savvy scientists to hit the marketplace

February 22, 2006

Meeting spiralling global demand for a pool of business savvy scientists is the target of an innovative programme being offered by the University of Auckland for the first time this year.

The state-of the-art Postgraduate Diploma and Masters Degree programme in Bioscience Enterprise is one of just a handful offered internationally to give science graduates the skills to successfully use their specialist knowledge in a commercial environment. The programme will be taught in partnership between the School of Biological Sciences, the Business School and the Law School.

The Director of the University of Auckland’s School of Biological Sciences, Professor Joerg Kistler, says rapid global growth of the biotechnology industry has highlighted a shortage of graduates bilingual in both science and business.

“The industry needs people who can translate scientific knowledge into value gain – how can it give a return to a company, where are the niche applications and how crowded is the marketplace with competitors and existing patents in the particular area.

“People who understand both the science and the commercial environment are the best to present to investors and help companies maximise commercial opportunities.”

Both full time students and practising scientists wanting to upskill through part time study are eligible to enrol in the course. They will study accounting and finance, marketing, law and intellectual property, product development and regulatory issues and research commercialisation, through a one year diploma course followed by a one year Masters course.

There is strong support for the university’s initiative from both industry and the government.

This includes financial backing through the Government’s Growth and Innovation Framework (GIF) for the development of the programme and related activities and sponsorship from national economic development agency, New Zealand Trade and Enterprise. NZTE will be building linkages between the university and industry through its extensive network of contacts in the New Zealand and international biotechnology sectors.

In the Masters year, students will do a research thesis and gain hands-on experience by working with law, venture capital and life sciences companies including biotech companies co-located in the university’s School of Biological Sciences (Protemix, Biomatters, Lactopharma and AgResearch).

In addition the programme will include regular networking sessions and guest lectures from law, business and biotech practitioners.

NZTE’s Sector Director, Biotechnology, Chris Boalch, says graduates who can bridge the gap between business and science sectors will fuel growth of New Zealand’s biotechnology sector.

“This programme, which is a first for New Zealand, is an outstanding example of how universities are building partnerships with the private sector and creating an entrepreneurial environment.”

The new programme also moves Auckland University closer to becoming a global biocluster centre of excellence reflecting, says Professor Kistler, the paradigm shift taking place in academic institutions.

“In the past university’s strived to excel in teaching and research but they now also have a third goal which is to support national economic goals by forging closer links with industry and producing students that are market ready.”

Students graduating from the course are expected to go straight into employment in areas such as market analysis and product development, technology transfer from research organisations to the private sector, consultancy and research commercialisation for companies in the life sciences and food and beverage industries.

The Diploma and Masters programmes are unique to Auckland University but modelled on a similar programme offered over one year at Cambridge University in the United Kingdom.

Up to 25 students can enrol in the inaugural course and Professor Kistler expects it to be fully subscribed.

The University of Auckland is on track to open a cutting-edge Biosciences Centre in 2008, housing up to 500 academic and industry scientists and graduate students and providing significant research facilities and a bio-incubator for new life sciences companies.

ENDS

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