AUT Enterprises helps researchers and scientists take the step from novel technology to commercial reality
Universities are hotbeds of the latest research, ideas and technology. At Auckland University of Technology, identifying and developing these ideas and finding commercial and market applications for them is the role of AUT Enterprises Ltd (AUTEL).
Charged with developing the IP, technology and research that comes out of the university, AUT Enterprises is its commercialisation vehicle, says Kevin Pryor, AUTEL’s CEO and AUT’s director of commercialisation.
Working from an invention disclosure outlining the science and technology a researcher is developing, AUTEL talks with the wider university community and approaches relevant companies to assess market applications for a new technology.
“It’s about starting with that general idea and slowly massaging it and working it out to get a business plan and market plan,” says Pryor. “Before we even start looking at the technology itself, we need to get out there and understand the market requirements so we can decide if the idea has a viable application.”
Commercialisation is a relatively new and interesting field in New Zealand, says Pryor. And because AUTEL is dealing with a range of different technologies from software development to health sciences and biotech, it needs to be very flexible in its approach.
THE WEATHER WITH YOU
Professor Philip Sallis, director of AUT Geoinformatics Research Centre, developed new technology with his team that allows vineyards to monitor climate, atmosphere and plant and soil data. It is automatically collected, processed and analysed using customised software. The potential benefits include increased yield and quality, accurate frost prediction and optimised use of resources such as water and pesticides.
The Microclimate Monitoring System is an allin- one monitoring solution that’s also suitable for other horticultural and agricultural environments. It incorporates Online Web Monitoring so users can access the WSN data for real-time monitoring from anywhere in the world. The technology has been successfully implemented in 15 vineyards in South America, Japan and New Zealand.
AUT Enterprises worked closely with the research team to identify novel aspects of the technology for patent protection and meeting market needs. An international commercial strategy and plan will look at growth opportunities in horticulture, agriculture and viticulture.
AUT researcher Dr Gwyn Lewis has completed the final prototype of an arm interface designed to enhance the recovery of arm function in stroke sufferers. Impairment of upper limb function is an issue for 60 percent of chronic stroke survivors.
AUT Enterprises recognised the benefits of Lewis’ Virtual Reality Rehabilitation System and funded the final stage of its development.
The technology is based on video games specially developed to enhance the recovery of arm function. The games incorporate motor learning and rehabilitation principals that improve patient motivation. The system also has the potential for use by patients with other movement disorders, such as cerebral palsy or spinal cord injury. Further games and interfaces that address lower-limb function are also in the pipeline.
The market for game-based technologies targeting exercise and movement is on the rise, and low-cost therapies that increase patient motivation are in high demand around the globe.
Pryor says university commercialisation groups around the country are starting to come together as an industry grouping, with benefits for all concerned.
Top: AUTEL CEO Kevin Pryor says commercialisation is a relatively new and interesting field in New Zealand. Pictured are new technologies from AUT, the Microclimate Monitoring System, and the Virtual Reality Rehabilitation System
“A piece of IP out of AUT University alone might not have enough commercial applications but combine it with IP from other universities to create a broader platform, and the market applicability of that IP becomes more attractive,” he says. “By meeting, collaborating and putting different portfolios together, the quality of the technology and ideas that result is much more attractive.”
New government initiatives to establish a national network of commercialisation, enabling universities and research institutes to collaborate and work with industry and investment communities, provide fantastic opportunities for AUT Enterprises, says Pryor.
“Universities, CRIs and public research institutes can’t expect industry to beat a path to their door. You have to get out there and talk to all different stakeholder groups and let them know the strengths of your university and where your research projects are going so they understand how you may be able to connect with them.”