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KiwiNet celebrates the transformative power of university research

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The Kiwi Innovation Network (KiwiNet) is a consortium of 18 of New Zealand’s public research organisations working together to transform research discoveries with commercial promise into new products and services.  KiwiNet doesn’t carry out research commercialisation itself; instead it acts as a channel for collaboration amongst those who do. KiwiNet aims to increase the scale and impact of science and technology based innovation, maximising economic benefits to New Zealand. 

KiwiNet’s position as an embassy for research commercialisation is exemplified through the KiwiNet Research Commercialisation Awards, which have become a highlight of the research community’s calendar year. In the 2019 KiwiNet awards the University of Auckland was well represented with the work of staff such as UniServices Will Charles and Distinguished Professor Dame Margaret Brimble receiving awards.

KiwiNet CEO James Hutchinson says “The world-class research that our universities carry out in New Zealand are already providing important solutions to some of the big meaty challenges that the world faces, particularly those outlined in the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and those that are critically important to the future prosperity of New Zealand. There is a massive opportunity to accelerate more of these clever research discoveries along a pathway to impact where they will form new products and services as the basis of a knowledge-based economy for New Zealand. The key to achieving this fundamentally comes down to people”.

James cites the University of Auckland Business School’s Masters programmes as a source of talent. “The Master of Commercialisation and Entrepreneurship has been a superb source of commercialisation experts and interns that have completed a research commercialisation project with KiwiNet member organisations, with many going on to full time positions. It’s also been a source of commercial mentors for KiwiNet projects – with participants deployed to projects to help shape the business plan and proposition for commercialisation”.

Beyond nurturing the talent of individuals, James stresses the importance of developing institutional culture to facilitate the success of research commercialisation. “University leaders need to ensure their institutions see their Tech Transfer Offices (TTOs) not simply as transactional money-making entities but as catalysts for driving impact for the institution and New Zealand. They need a clear mandate on this front and must be fully supported by their institutions to drive a pathway-to-impact through commercialisation that will build reputation for the university, drive stronger research proposals, meaningful relationships with industry and investors and enable an entrepreneurial environment to thrive. Universities working with ecosystem partners like KiwiNet and Return On Science are what will drive change and future impact for New Zealand. This is already happening and universities have a big opportunity to get further behind programmes like Momentum, which is powered by Auckland UniServices.”

When this year’s Budget was released, the research community waited with baited breath to see the implications for research commercialisation. James says that the future for research commercialisation is bright. “We’ve seen a genuine and tangible commitment from Government to driving our deep-tech future. Not only further investment into early stage commercialisation via KiwiNet and Return On Science, but also into later stage of commercialisation including the technology-focused incubation programme led by Callaghan and the new $300m venture fund. This will create critical market pull for technologies emerging from universities and CRIs by establishing a supportive ecosystem for the commercialisation pipeline from early stage research discovery right through to start-up and expansion.”

With a well-resourced ecosystem and innovative culture in place, we can look forward to many more success stories emerging from the University of Auckland.

James Hutchinson
James Hutchinson

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The Kiwi Innovation Network (KiwiNet) is a consortium of 18 of New Zealand’s public research organisations working together to transform research discoveries with commercial promise into new products and services.  KiwiNet doesn’t carry out research commercialisation itself; instead it acts as a channel for collaboration amongst those who do. KiwiNet aims to increase the scale and impact of science and technology based innovation, maximising economic benefits to New Zealand. 

KiwiNet’s position as an embassy for research commercialisation is exemplified through the KiwiNet Research Commercialisation Awards, which have become a highlight of the research community’s calendar year. In the 2019 KiwiNet awards the University of Auckland was well represented with the work of staff such as UniServices Will Charles and Distinguished Professor Dame Margaret Brimble receiving awards.

KiwiNet CEO James Hutchinson says “The world-class research that our universities carry out in New Zealand are already providing important solutions to some of the big meaty challenges that the world faces, particularly those outlined in the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and those that are critically important to the future prosperity of New Zealand. There is a massive opportunity to accelerate more of these clever research discoveries along a pathway to impact where they will form new products and services as the basis of a knowledge-based economy for New Zealand. The key to achieving this fundamentally comes down to people”.

James cites the University of Auckland Business School’s Masters programmes as a source of talent. “The Master of Commercialisation and Entrepreneurship has been a superb source of commercialisation interns that have been placed in KiwiNet member organisations, with many going on to full time positions. It’s also been a source of commercial mentors for KiwiNet projects – with participants deployed to projects to help shape the business plan and proposition for commercialisation”.

Beyond nurturing the talent of individuals, James stresses the importance of developing institutional culture to facilitate the success of research commercialisation. “University leaders need to ensure their institutions see their Tech Transfer Offices (TTOs) not simply as transactional money-making entities but as catalysts for driving impact for the institution and New Zealand. They need a clear mandate on this front and must be fully supported by their institutions to drive a pathway-to-impact through commercialisation that will build reputation for the university, drive stronger research proposals, meaningful relationships with industry and investors and enable an entrepreneurial environment to thrive. Universities working with ecosystem partners like KiwiNet and Return On Science are what will drive change and future impact for New Zealand. This is already happening and universities have a big opportunity to get further behind programmes like Momentum, which is powered by Auckland UniServices.”

When this year’s Budget was released, the research community waited with baited breath to see the implications for research commercialisation. James says that the future for research commercialisation is bright. “We’ve seen a genuine and tangible commitment from Government to driving our deep-tech future. Not only further investment into early stage commercialisation via KiwiNet and Return On Science, but also into later stage of commercialisation including the technology-focused incubation programme led by Callaghan and the new $300m venture fund. This will create critical market pull for technologies emerging from universities and CRIs by establishing a supportive ecosystem for the commercialisation pipeline from early stage research discovery right through to start-up and expansion.”

With a well-resourced ecosystem and innovative culture in place, we can look forward to many more success stories emerging from the University of Auckland.


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