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Manawatū Sci-tech Startups Get Momentum Boost

Manawatū-based university science and technology staff and student entrepreneurs will be able to bring their startup projects to market faster, and with more likelihood of success, when the fifth branch of the Momentum Investment Committee (MIC) launches in Palmerston North today (August 12).

The Momentum Programme was the first of its kind when it launched with the formation of a student-led investment committee by the University of Auckland’s commercialisation arm, UniServices, in June 2017. Momentum Investment Committees are formed from a diverse range of students, investors, industry, and science commercialisation experts with students making up most of the seats.

The committee provides budding entrepreneurs with expert advice, international connections, direction, and funding support to help commercialise their innovations.

“As a result, business and investment sectors can expect to see these ‘pre-seed’ intellectual property (IP) and technology projects coming to market faster, better prepared and with greater chance of success,” explains Graham Scown, Momentum’s Programme and Commercialisation Director.

Momentum Investment Committees are accredited by the Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment (MBIE) to make investment decisions and recommendations for placement of PreSeed Accelerator Funds.

The Momentum Programme has been rolled out progressively across New Zealand. To date, the programme has 162 projects in action – 96 in Auckland, 32 in Wellington, 17 in Otago and 14 in Canterbury. There are three exciting projects on the agenda for the first Manawatū Momentum meeting.

An earlier example of a Momentum project is Luxor Astronautics. Luxor was first developed through the University of Auckland’s Velocity programme and then its VentureLab incubator and has been presented to Auckland Momentum twice in its early stages.

“Fia Jones of Luxor was a first-year student at the University of Auckland. She had an idea of powering satellites in space, so they last many times longer. With Momentum’s involvement, the project has received support and they are on their way to building their first prototype right here in New Zealand,” says Mr Scown.

He says he’s confident the Manawatū will prove to be a hot-bed of game-changing innovations that will contribute to putting New Zealand back on the road to economic recovery and employment growth, with the help of the Momentum approach.

Momentum Investment Committees naturally incorporate te ao Māori into each meeting, another example of the programme’s unique model and values. Karakia and Mihi are delivered at the beginning and end of each investment committee meeting, and the roles of Kaikarakia (karakia leader) and Kaimihi (mihi leader) are shared.

The Palmerston North online launch will deliver the Momentum waiata for the first time.

“Momentum is committed to giving life to Vision Mātauranga. We are therefore committed to te reo Māori me ōna tikanga (the Māori language and its cultural practices), and to engaging meaningfully with te ao Māori, me te iwi Māori (the Maori world and iwi),” says UniServices Kaiarahi, Geremy Hema.

It is also the first time Momentum has successfully recruited a student from a polytech (Universal College of Learning) onto a committee. Jerry Shearman, Executive Director Education & Research at UCOL says “We see Momentum as a great platform for our students to engage with the process of growing entrepreneurs and at the same time adding skills to their kete. There’s also much that our students can offer in terms of ideas for potential commercialisation.”

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