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Launch of Trans-Tasman Commercialisation Fund

16 June 2008
Speech

Launch of Trans-Tasman Commercialisation Fund

Trans Tasman Commercialisation Fund launch, The University of Auckland Business School 6pm, 16 June 2008

Thank-you Peter.

Good evening. University Vice Chancellor Professor Stuart McCutcheon, UniServices Chief Executive Dr Peter Lee, Paul Cheever of Access Capital Advisors, Trans Tasman Commercialisation Fund inaugural Chief Executive Lawrence Bremner and special guests.

It gives me great pleasure to be here this evening to launch the Trans Tasman Commercialisation Fund. This is a fund which will take more great University of Auckland research across the ‘Valley of Death’ and out into the commercial world.

This is exciting. I have a real sense that we are on the crest of a new wave of innovation.

In fact, the very genesis of this fund is a tribute to innovation.

I admire the fact that UniServices took an innovative approach to a difficult problem: how to source funds to support promising ideas through the critical first stages of commercial and technical evaluation on the path to becoming investment-ready.

It would have been easy to sit and complain about a lack of funding to support this process. But UniServices showed great leadership and experience in looking for a solution.

Dr Lee, his board and his management team knew there were insufficient funds available in New Zealand for the very early pre-seed investment stage in the commercialisation process. Such investments are high risk and long term. A commercial return is a distant prospect.

The Trans Tasman Commecialisation Fund follows a successful model employed in Australia.

Top research universities are grouped together with one or more major investors and supportive governments in a fund which provides AUD$ 30 million over five years.

With this fund it is Australian superannuation scheme, Westscheme, which has decided to back researchers on both sides of the Tasman with a major investment.

My Government, through New Zealand Trade and Enterprise is supporting this fund with $200,000 annually for five years.

Like the state governments of Victoria and South Australia (TBC), we decided to support the Fund because we are convinced of the value it will bring in terms of increased research commercialisation, spin-out companies, growth in the Trans-Tasman knowledge economy and ultimately economic growth.

I know Dr Lee believes UniServices can double the number of spin out companies it creates each year, based on University research, thanks to the access it will now have to the Fund.

I look forward to seeing these companies launch.

What I do know, thanks to the experience of the past, is that companies formed on the basis of University of Auckland research tend to stay close-by. They will operate in the vicinity of the University to be close to the researchers who made those first discoveries.

This will be good for Auckland City and the wider New Zealand economy.

Already we have seen a small cluster of research-based companies operating adjacent to the University – thanks to the Trans Tasman Commercialisation Fund this cluster is set to grow.

So, I am convinced that my Government’s support of the Fund is a quality investment for the New Zealand taxpayer.

With The University of Auckland competing alongside the universities of Monash, Adelaide, Flinders and South Australia for those funds I expect to see some amazing research advance along the path to commercialisation.

I am impressed with the way the fund has been set up and the way in which it is to be managed with a Board of Trustees and an Investment Committee.

That Investment Committee will consider project bids put forward by the five universities. They will be bidding for up to AUD$1 million, but could in some circumstances secure up to AUD$1.5 million for an individual project.

Just to ensure one university does not secure all funds available, allocations will be reviewed six monthly to ensure an even split.

One of the key elements of the fund is that it is NOT exclusive. The good ideas which are put before the Fund’s Investment Committee can be offered to other qualified investors or co-investors, at the same time.

In time we may see the New Zealand Superannuation Fund join the Trans Tasman Commercialisation Fund – there is certainly provision for that to happen.

Today’s launch is particularly timely as it comes just hours before I leave for Bio 2008 in San Diego along with Dr Lee and members of his team.

There New Zealand’s biotech industry will be showcased alongside the best in the world. We will have a large presence there, highlighting the fact that our research institutions and companies are at the cutting edge of biotechnology research. In all 43 (update closer to the time) New Zealand companies and organisations will be represented in San Diego.

I know UniServices will be working hard on the ground in San Diego to secure business partnerships. I am confident the company will do quite well. Tonight, with the launch of the Trans Tasman Commercialisation Fund we have seen what it is capable of.

I would like to conclude by congratulating all involved in making the Fund a reality.

I have great pleasure to launching the Trans Tasman Commercialisation Fund. And I look forward to returning for a company launch in the not too distant future.

ENDS

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