Backing bright ideas early boosts innovation economy – science minister on govt’s funding role

Dr Megan Woods. Minister of Research, Science and Innovation, today gave us an idea of how government science funding is being prioritised and distributed – from one of its funding streams, anyway.

She said funding to connect top researchers with budding innovators is the latest milestone in the government’s plan to boost research and development, create more high-value jobs and diversify the economy.

“We’re supporting people starting out in business to commercialise their research by connecting them to New Zealand’s top thinkers, early,” Megan Woods says.

The government’s plan, funded through the 2019 round of the Commercialisation Partner Network (CPN) and PreSeed Accelerator Fund (PreSeed), will put innovators with talent on the right commercial course.

“This is about unlocking the value of publicly funded research – to create new technologies and companies that support a productive economy that is growing and working for all of us.”

Over the next two years, KiwiNet (a group of 18 Crown Research Institutes, universities and other research organisations)  and the University of Auckland’s national commercialisation programme, Return On Science,will use this investment to take world-leading innovations to market.

“The work of Kiwi researchers is world-leading, but they need support. This is about backing our people to launch out of the lab,” Megan Woods says.

Dr Andy Shenk, chief executive of  Auckland UniServices Ltd, says the funding will result in investment experts providing advice and leadership mentoring to start-ups across the country.

Dr James Hutchinson, chief executive of KiwiNet, says this support will scale early momentum into transformational commercial success, enabling KiwiNet to inspire and empower the next-generation of entrepreneurial researchers and fast track them to success.

Megan Woods says getting the mix of support right is vital if New Zealand is to grow its innovation economy,” 

“The Government has an ambitious goal to increase Research and Development spending to 2 per cent of GDP over 10 years. Backing our researchers and businesses to succeed from day one is an important part of that plan.”

Since its inception, Return On Science has

  • Made sure 77% of pitches result in commercial deals
  • Supported 60 start-ups like PowerbyProxi, Engender, and Objective Acuity
  • Generated more than $200 million in revenue for the innovation economy.

KiwiNet has delivered:

  • Technologies and companies which have generated$293 million revenue to Kiwi businesses and research organisations
  • 383 commercial deals and $428 million potential export earnings
  • Support for the creation of 39 start-up companies like Hot Lime Labs, Invert Robotics, Zeakal and Ligar.

Together KiwiNet and Return On Science are responsible for creating over 300 jobs across the country.


The Commercialisation Partner Network fund and the PreSeed Accelerator Fund together support commercialisation of publicly-funded research.

The CPN grows commercialisation capability in research organisations and PreSeed provides early-stage project funding to help commercial opportunities reach the stage where they can gain private investment.

The government will invest $26.5 million into the commercialisation of innovation over the next two years through the 2019 round of the CPN and PreSeed.

The PreSeed fund has also invested in some highly successful businesses, including commercial deals in excess of $100 million per year for the last two years. KiwiNet, Auckland Uniservices, Otago Innovation and Scion were this year’s PreSeed recipients.

More information and the full list of successful projects can be found on MBIE’s website for CPN and PreSeed.

Source:  Minister of Research, Science and Innovation

Author: Bob Edlin

Editor of AgScience Magazine and Editor of the AgScience Blog

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