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Uniservices Leading The Charge For Auckland

2 June 2011
News release
Uniservices Leading The Charge For Auckland
As “Innovation Capital”

Auckland is on track to be the innovation capital of the Pacific Rim, says the head of the country’s most successful research and development commercialisation company, UniServices.

Chief executive Peter Lee says many countries in the region, particularly the rapidly-developing Asian “tigers”, are hungry for innovation.

“About 86% of our international business is around the Pacific Rim and we are actively seeking opportunities in a number of places which are not only eager for technology, but have the money to pay for it and are prepared to spend it outside their own country.

“Our three current examples are Korea, Singapore and a bit further away in Saudi Arabia in the Middle East,” says Lee. “Korea is fusing ICT with medical applications to create new businesses and we are involved in that. For example, they are using Korean-made robots fitted with NZ-developed hardware to look after patients in retirement villages.”

While the “Knowledge Wave” ebbed and flowed, UniServices is one organisation keeping that particular concept alive.

Despite the recession, the company, which commercialises The University of Auckland’s research and development, has doubled growth in the past five years and now boasts annual revenue of $125 million.

Out of the 44 countries UniServices does business in, the United States remains its biggest market followed by Malaysia then Australia, Japan, the Middle East and China.

“The world is so hungry for knowledge and innovation and New Zealand needs to realise that research is good for business and research itself IS a business,” says Lee, whose view has been endorsed by Auckland mayor Len Brown, a strong supporter of UniServices.

“Research is a primary supplier to a knowledge economy. Researchers take knowledge as a raw material, and transform it into a product - intellectual property – and the world will pay dearly for that intellectual property,” says Lee.

“Our markets might be overseas but the continuing research stays here as our international customers keep coming back for more, bringing wealth into the country. That retains jobs for scientists and researchers here while using foreign direct income to fund them. That’s a win-win for New Zealand.”

UniServices gets no funding from The University of Auckland or the Government and every annual surplus is reinvested back into R&D in one form or another, whether it’s new research projects, start-up companies or technology development.

“Everything we make is used for growth-oriented investment,” says Lee.

That’s why each of his business managers has a growth target for their sector and, if that can’t be met within two to three years, UniServices has to make a commercial decision, as any company does, to redirect resources to more promising markets.

“We are extremely effective at what we do and generate more licences and start-ups per research dollar than almost any other similar organisation around the world, including all of the top ranked US universities for which these statistics are available.”

UniServices offers three main services – contract research for business; intellectual property via licensing agreements and getting new businesses up and running; and Education by Design which provides groups of foreign students access to The University’s course work.

Every year, the organisation forms more than 30 new licences and starts three to four companies in order to transfer technology into value for business.

“In the past three years, despite the global financial crisis, those companies earned UniServices $48 million in start-up funding.

UniServices files a large chunk of the intellectual property patents submitted in New Zealand and ongoing royalties from hundreds of licences continues to generate millions.
However, contract research remains the organisation’s biggest division, particularly in biotechnology.

“We currently have 15 drugs in clinical development – that is remarkable for any lab anywhere in the world,” says Lee.

Ends -

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