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News Bulletin: Uni Contributions To Business

NZVCC Electronic News Bulletin Vol. 8 No. 18 29 October 2008

Lead item …

Multiple contributions by universities to business success

The contributions to business success from the commercialisation of university research are multiple, according to Auckland UniServices CEO Dr Peter Lee. They include not only the formation of new companies but also licences and contracted research to support the needs of existing businesses. Dr Lee made this observation at last week’s launch of University research commercialisation – paying dividends for New Zealand at a function at the University of Auckland. The joint NZVCC – University Commercialisation Offices of New Zealand (UCONZ) publication sets out the success story which sees university research commercialisation currently generating a billion dollars for the New Zealand economy through the market capitalisation of spin-out companies.

Dr Lee noted that many businesses were realizing that the current financial situation was tougher than normal but some nevertheless saw it as a time of extraordinary opportunity. “Often in today’s financial climate one hears questions about the value of academic research and the explanations from researchers are often discounted as self serving. The technology transfer offices, which work at the interface between academic research and business, are in a good position to speak to the value of this investment. We say that there might be no better way and no better time than the present to seek new commercial directions for business by linking business need with the potentially game changing opportunities inherent in our research laboratories.”

Dr Lee’s comments followed similar sentiments expressed by NZVCC chair Professor Roger Field who told the launch audience that linkages among universities, other research providers and private business were especially important in a small country like New Zealand. Statistics NZ’s research and development survey showed that research in this country’s eight universities was worth $593 million a year. In 2005 the universities’ commercialisation entities set up UCONZ to promote the sector which was now thriving with a turnover of $350 million a year. UCONZ also provided a forum for the exchange of ideas on how to advance research commercialisation and the benefits it brought to New Zealand.

The university research commercialisation publication sets out six case studies where the commercial potential of university research outputs has been realised. They involve the application of research centred on safe transmission of electric currents, cheap and efficient energy generation in the home, environmental management and medical advances.

Auckland Cancer Society Research Centre Director Professor Bill Denny also spoke at the publication launch. The centre is based in the University of Auckland’s School of Medical Sciences and its mission is the development of new drugs for cancer therapy, with about 40% of its income coming from commercial collaborations. Engagement with industry is underpinned by complementary skills – universities being the creation engine and companies, the development engine. The three types of commercial collaborations are fee-for-service research, joint ventures and spin-out companies. However, the benefits to the university from commercial engagement are even wider, including research funding from overseas, downstream investment in New Zealand and cutting-edge clinical trial research opportunities for clinicians in this country.

A PDF of University research commercialisation – paying dividends for New Zealand is available from:

Other items …

New look NZVCC for 2009

Massey University Vice-Chancellor Steve Maharey will attend his first NZVCC meeting this week after some four weeks in the role on a full-time basis while University of Canterbury Vice-Chancellor elect Dr Rod Carr will take up his new post in February 2009. They represent the first change in the composition of the NZVCC since the appointments of Victoria University of Wellington Vice-Chancellor Professor Pat Walsh and Waikato University Vice-Chancellor Professor Roy Crawford in 2005.

From a corporate and government background, Dr Carr is currently Managing Director of Christchurch-based Jade Software Corporation. Prior to joining Jade in 2003, he was Deputy Governor and Director of the Reserve Bank of New Zealand. He has also held senior positions within the Bank of New Zealand and the National Australia Bank. He has LLB (Hons) and BCom (Hons) degrees from the University of Otago, an MBA from Columbia University Graduate School of Business (New York), and MA and PhD degrees from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

Woolf Fisher Scholarships for 2009

Jennifer Haskell (University of Canterbury), Andrew Haines (University of Otago) and James McNamara (Victoria University of Wellington) have won Woolf Fisher Scholarships for 2009 and will study at Cambridge University. Administered by the NZVCC, Woolf Fisher Scholarships were established in 2003 and are tenable at Cambridge or Oxford University for three or four years of postgraduate research leading to a doctoral degree or equivalent.

Now aged 21, Jennifer Haskell is a former dux of Chilton St James School in the Hutt Valley and will graduate from Canterbury at the end of this year with a BE (Hons) in civil engineering. At Cambridge she will work under the supervision of Dr Gopal Madabhushi and her PhD research will focus on seismic design of foundations using the geotechnical centrifuge at the Schofield Centre. A New Zealand representative in both ice and inline hockey, Jennifer hopes to play for the Cambridge women’s ice hockey team.

Andrew Haines is also 21 and attended Taieri College where he was dux, deputy head prefect and captain of the 1st XI. He will graduate from Otago with a BSc (Hons) in physics and mathematics and hopes to study with Professor Jeremy Baumberg in the nano photonics group at Cambridge. His PhD research will investigate self and directed assembly of metamaterials which has applications in fields such as telecommunications but may also be applied to the development of a wide range of technologies.

James McNamara is aged 24 and attended Wellington College where he was dux in 2002. He has completed an MA in classics with distinction at Victoria, having majored in Latin, Ancient Greek and German at undergraduate level. James will work towards a PhD in classics at Cambridge, researching the historiography of the Roman historian Tacitus. He is looking to expand on an earlier project on the exploitation of fear as a command tool in the Roman Empire.

Australian university infrastructure investment fast-tracked

Universities Australia has come out in support of the Australian Government’s decision to fast-track investment in university infrastructure from the Higher Education Endowment Fund (HEEF) returns. The organisation has welcomed a decision by the federal government to allocate almost A$700 million for spending on university infrastructure and research facilities. The money has been fast-tracked to next year's funding round. Announcing the decision last week, Education Minister Julia Gillard and Science and Research Minister Senator Kim Carr said the move was in line with Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's earlier announcement to bring forward the government's "nation building agenda". A total of 14 universities from a field of 55 applicants have been selected to develop their proposals for the 2009 funding round. The proposals cross the teaching, learning and research spectrum, including disciplinary areas such as education, creative arts, engineering and science.

The ministers said the government had already delivered A$500 million for university infrastructure through its Better Universities Renewal Fund. Universities Australia said the fast-track decision would further reduce massive backlogs in teaching and research facilities while supporting economic activity and enhancing graduate skills, productivity and exports. The HEEF will soon be subsumed into an A$11 billion Education Investment Fund (EIF) and Universities Australia has recommended that the first EIF funding round be brought forward to July 2009. Universities Australia also wants an ability to draw down the fund’s capital to be made available.

Canadian universities eligible for infrastructure funding

The Canadian federal government has announced that Canadian universities and colleges are eligible recipients for the government’s Building Canada infrastructure plan. Project proposals from universities and colleges must have formal municipal support and demonstrate that they benefit the broader community in which the institution is located. The Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada reports that a number of Building Canada investment categories may be of interest to its members, including those related to sports and cultural infrastructure, as well as broadband and “brownfield” (abandoned or under-used industrial and commercial facilities available for re-use) redevelopment.

The governments of Canada and Quebec have also announced the signing of the Canada-Quebec framework agreement under the Building Canada plan. Worth nearly C$4 billion between this year and 2014, the agreement includes funding for the expansion of Université Laval’s physical education and sports building. Federal funding for the project under the framework agreement will be C$37.5 million, with matching funds from the Quebec government and C$10 million from Quebec City.


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