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KiwiNet secures significant funding boost from MBIE

HAMILTON, N.Z., 8 July, 2019
– The ongoing success of KiwiNet’s collaborative research commercialisation activities have been recognised with a significantly enhanced funding contract from The Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) under The Commercialisation Partner Network (CPN). KiwiNet will receive $2,179,319 million per annum from MBIE to grow their collaborative model to commercialise science and research, a 93% increase in funding per annum. KiwiNet has also secured $4,972,460 million investment funding per annum from MBIE’s PreSeed Accelerator Fund, a 45% increase in PreSeed funding, to turn public research discoveries into products and services which can then be successfully brought to market.

KiwiNet has attracted a ground swell of support since its inception in 2008 with four partner organisations. Today, the KiwiNet Innovation Network is the combined power of 18 of New Zealand’s Universities, Crown Research Institutes and other research organisations who receive public funding, working closely together to turn research ideas into commercial value. With the recent addition of Massey Ventures Ltd and Health Innovation Hub, KiwiNet members now represent a total combined research expenditure of over $800 million and over 80% of New Zealand’s publicly-funded researchers, which equates to a combined research capability of around 8000 researchers.

“It’s fantastic to receive this increased support from the Government, which shows their commitment to research commercialisation and innovation and recognises the role we’re playing in New Zealand’s future economic success,” says KiwiNet CEO James Hutchinson. “By leveraging the Government’s substantial investment in research discovery, to date we’ve generated a greater than seven-fold return on investment, from $38 million of PreSeed Accelerator Investment from MBIE, with business co-investing a further $20 million alongside this.”

KiwiNet has backed over 950 projects involving hundreds of researchers from KiwiNet PreSeed pooling partners, resulting in 383 commercial deals across 167 projects, including 39 start-up companies formed.

Hutchinson says, “We’ve kick-started technologies and companies, which have generated $293 million total known revenue to New Zealand businesses and research organisations, through our collaborative approach to transforming scientific discoveries into investor-ready innovation. We now want to double down on this success.

“MBIE’s increased support will help us deliver on our vision to unlock the innovative potential of our science at the laboratory end to create an avalanche of deep-tech ventures for the startup pipeline, which has also received a big boost with the Government’s new $300 million venture fund. This focus on science and innovation will drive prosperity, enhance and sustain intergenerational wellbeing, and grow New Zealand for all.”

The Commercialisation Partner Network (CPN) is a funding programme that was established by MBIE in 2010 with the aim of aggregating the technology transfer activities of New Zealand’s public research organisations so that a science and innovation eco-system might be accelerated. The CPN works hand-in-hand with MBIE’s PreSeed Accelerator Fund, to support early-stage commercialisation of public research discoveries to progress them to a point of investor-readiness.

MBIE's Senior Investment Manager - Science System Investment and Performance - Labour, Science and Enterprise at the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, Jez Weston, says: “The CPN partners, KiwiNet and Return On Science, are working together to deliver measurable results in terms of improved and increased commercialisation of publicly funded research.”

KiwiNet runs a range of activities to empower the people who commercialise research and maximise commercial success from the most promising research discoveries across New Zealand, including commercialisation workshops, industry engagement events, investor introduction activities and the annual KiwiNet Research Commercialisation Awards. KiwiNet also provides commercial mentors for projects and investment to support commercialisation.

A core function for KiwiNet is running an Investment Committee that invests MBIE PreSeed Accelerator Funding into new commercial ventures promoted by KiwiNet members.

The KiwiNet Investment Committee, made up of specialist innovation experts and representatives from KiwiNet member organisations, has been chaired since its formation by Andrew Turnbull, a successful high-tech entrepreneur and angel investor in his own right.

Mr Turnbull says, “Research organisations uncover often serendipitous scientific discovery that could drive disruptive innovation and create commercial opportunities in unexpected areas. We see these ideas at a very early stage and can draw on the specialist technical and commercial experience at the Investment Committee table to offer specialist advice on a huge range of topics. This guidance, which can often result in projects changing course as they progress to maximise the market potential of the innovation, has played an integral role in creating a strong innovation pipeline.

“Success stories include spin out companies Hot Lime Labs, a developer of green CO2 technologies for horticulture and Ligar, a developer of molecularly imprinted polymers. Another standout success is ESR’s STRmix™, innovative forensic software which this year took out New Zealand’s top science award, The Prime Minister’s Science Prize.”

KiwiNet Chairman, Ngaio Merrick, says KiwiNet has made a significant contribution towards an enhanced and diverse research commercialisation ecosystem by pushing the frontiers of high-tech innovation.

“We’re highly ambitious and we want to scale our successes and increase the impact of science and innovation in new wealth creation for New Zealand. We can do this by increasing the number of projects presented to our investment committee, and by unlocking the innovation potential of Māori knowledge, resources and people. To support this we need to also grow the size and quality of New Zealand’s commercialisation workforce to drive commercial success, and regular and early engagement with the private sector.”

KiwiNet’s open model for commercialisation is now internationally sought-after due to its track record of success.

KiwiNet member organisations and shareholders include WaikatoLink, Plant & Food Research, Otago Innovation Ltd, Lincoln University, AUT Ventures, AgResearch, University of Canterbury, Callaghan Innovation, Viclink, Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research, Cawthron Institute, ESR, NIWA, Scion, Malaghan Institute, GNS Science, Massey Ventures Ltd and Health Innovation Hub. Principal support is provided by the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment (MBIE).

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