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National innovation network to take Kiwi ventures to the world

The Kiwi Innovation Network will help homegrown projects "excite and harness investor appetite", according to one of its founding members.

Universities and crown research institutes have teamed up as part of a fresh innovation hub to create the "ingredients of success".

Yesterday the Kiwi Innovation Network (KiwiNet) was launched, aiming to act as a focal point for the creation of commercial outcomes from homegrown science and technology research, linking its member organisations and the wider domestic innovation system.

Members will share resources, networks, best practice, IP and experience to increase the commercial viability of their projects, with a view to creating startups from their research-based ventures. A committee will decide which research will be funded.

Founding members include WaikatoLink, Plant & Food Research, Otago Innovation Ltd, Lincoln University, AUT Enterprises, AgResearch, University of Canterbury, Industrial Research Ltd and Viclink, which have a total combined research expenditure of more than $500 million.

Tim Balmer, investments and commercialisation manager at hub member Industrial Research Ltd, says KiwiNet provides “the essential ingredients of success”.

“[KiwiNet provides] strong governance, rigorous investment screening and decision making, well-structured project guidance and monitoring, and the ability to excite and harness investor appetite,” he says.

KiwiNet says it expects the new shopfront to attract interest from both investors on the hunt for promising ventures, and those with ideas who would like to test them through the network.

Chairperson Hon Ruth Richardson says: “We live in an era where discovery is the new currency and the success with which nations can foster the climate for innovation will determine their future prosperity.

“Much rests on our capacity to commercialise the ideas, schemes and dreams of our brightest and best as a small but competitive nation. Ambition to succeed in forging an innovative economy is one thing, but the acid is now on to lift our ability to execute that goal,” she says.

Investor and director Andrew Turnbull and entrepreneur Bill Day, chairman elect of the Investment Committee, join Richardson as independent directors.

Richardson says New Zealand needs to lift its economic game.

“One way we can do this is to get really bold about executing on an agenda of commercialisation and innovation. KiwiNet is a very practical and crucial push for smart commercialisation.”

Endeavour Capital executive chairman Neville Jordan says the advantages of Kiwinet’s strategy are “clear cut”.

Last week Endeavour Capital signed a $20 million two-way investment deal with the state government of Florida. The partnership will provide opportunities for expansion into global markets for existing businesses and for US intellectual property to be further developed in New Zealand by KiwiNet members, says Jordan.

“Research-based organisations generate a wealth of discoveries and these innovations need to establish networks and get close to their markets as quickly as possible. Collaboration and early visibility to investors who understand the potential of these research opportunities dramatically increases the chance of success for ventures.

“KiwiNet’s approach will accelerate the export growth of New Zealand products and services based on science and technology,” he says.