Canterbury University signs electric motor commercialisation deal

Loss-making Wellington Drive Technology splashes out on new motor technology

Canterbury University has signed a commercialisation agreement with the serially-unprofitable, NZX-listed, electric motor company Wellington Drive Technology.

The deal sees WDT, which was founded in 1986 but has struggled to make a profit over almost 30 years, license a new form of brushless motor destined for the refrigeration market. This should see Canterbury's motors used in products like soft drinks vending machines all over the world.

The new motor was developed by Dr Richard Strahan from Canterbury’s Electrical Power Engineering Centre, and is quieter and more efficient than traditional electric motors.

The licensing deal is part of increasing moves by New Zealand universities to commercialise the intellectual property they produce.

Strahan’s electric motor technology has also been licensed to a large European motor manufacturer.

Stahan couldn’t release the size of the WDT deal but said he had been in discussion with the company for some time.

“I was keen to let them have a look at the motor.”

WDT is one of those exciting new technology companies which has never failed to disappoint investors – who have never failed to pump more money in. Potentially the Dyson of electric motors, WDT’s motors were initially seen as revolutionary, using electronics instead of mechanical brushes to produce rotation.

WDT launched on the NZX with a roar in 2001, with its share price trading above $16 at its peak. But despite sales in the US, Europe, Asia and Latin America, the company has never been successful, and its stock is now trading around 4 cents.

Source: FinData

The company posted a loss of $4.5 million in calendar 2014, up from $4m the year before. Sales were down to $17.8m, from $27.3m.

WDT was unavailable for comment.

Idealog has been covering the most interesting people, businesses and issues from the fields of innovation, design, technology and urban development for over 12 years. And we're asking for your support so we can keep telling those stories, inspire more entrepreneurs to start their own businesses and keep pushing New Zealand forward. Give over $5 a month and you will not only be supporting New Zealand innovation, but you’ll also receive a print subscription and a copy of the new book by David Downs and Dr. Michelle Dickinson, No. 8 Recharged (while stocks last).