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R&D Experience Grant Is A Two-way Success For Taranaki Enterprises And University Students

Venture Taranaki’s partnership with Callaghan Innovation has resulted in funding for 35 university students to undertake a 10-week internship over their summer break.

During Summer 2020/21, the students have been working across a variety of Taranaki businesses, providing fresh ideas on how to improve current products or services, and undertaking research into new ideas.

"The R&D Experience Grant is a New Zealand-wide programme aimed at students studying technology, science, engineering, or design," Venture Taranaki Chief Executive Justine Gilliland explains.

"This year we have seen a significant increase in the number of businesses apply for the grant, which shows that despite - or perhaps because of - COVID-19 disruptions, Taranaki enterprises want to move forward with their new, innovative ideas," adds Justine.

This year, 31 Taranaki businesses received funding to employ 35 students, compared to last summer’s grant where 24 students were funded.

"Venture Taranaki has facilitated $330,363 worth of funding to Taranaki businesses to pay for the students’ 10-week internship, through the Callaghan Innovation R&D Experience Grant. It is a programme we are extremely proud to support," adds Venture Taranaki General Manager Enterprise, Michelle Jordan.

"The benefit of the grant for students and local enterprises is invaluable. Not only are the students offered exposure to significant work experience, but the supporting enterprises also get an influx of new skills and new approaches into the business," explains Michelle.

"Another benefit to the grant is that these young students are choosing to live and work in our world-class region over their summer break. They are contributing to the vibrancy, the innovation, and liveliness of our region. They are playing an important role in shaping Taranaki’s future," says Justine.

Students like Brittany Scouller, who is working towards a Masters in Science at Victoria University, has picked up an internship with Sol+Sea, a new environmentally conscious cosmetics brand. Brittany is part of the team at Sol+Sea tasked with researching and refining ingredients, developing formulations, and undertaking product testing, all in preparation for the brand launch this year.

"It has been great to apply my degree to something I haven’t done before, and it’s exciting to be working with cosmetics, which is different for me. Plus, I love that I can come home to Taranaki and spend my summer here," says Brittany.

"Having a funded R&D resource is an amazing initiative, and has resulted in a major leap forward in launching our new product," effuses Sea+Sol owner Glen Stephens.

Massey University student Megan Palmer has been placed with Van Dyck Fine Foods for her internship. Completing a Bachelor of Food Technology, Megan has found her time at Van Dyck Fine Foods advantageous, offering her vital work experience related to her area of study, within a successful business. Van Dyck Fine Food’s R&D Manager Megan O’Reilly has also found the grant valuable.

"Receiving the student funding has enabled us to put an extra person on the team to progress some key new product development projects, giving them the focus they require," Megan explains.

The Callaghan Innovation R&D Experience Grants not only offer students exposure to important work experience, but could also lead to an offer of permanent work in Taranaki following the internship.

"While the majority of the interns return to university at the end of the 10 weeks to complete their degree, we’ve had examples of students, who had already finished their qualifications, being offered the opportunity to stay on permanently with the enterprises they were placed with," explains Michelle.

"The calibre of talent that we receive with the R&D Experience Grant is outstanding, so we’re thrilled when a local enterprise is able to retain that talent here in Taranaki," says Justine.

The R&D Experience Grant applications for Summer 2021/22 will open in April/May this year. Businesses interested in exploring this opportunity should get in touch with Venture Taranaki.

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