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Remodelled government programme selects new tech-focused incubators

Three new incubators described by the government as technology focused have been chosen to get access to repayable grants introduced as part of last year’s Budget.

The three are PowerHouse (Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, Dunedin); Astrolab (Auckland) and WNT Ventures (Tauranga). They join five so-called ‘founder focused incubators’: the Icehouse, the Bio Commerce Centre, Creative HQ, eCentre and Soda Inc.

WNT Ventures includes personnel from Wharf 42, Plus Group and Locus Research, the Titanium Industry Development Association (TiDA), and Quayside Holdings.

The Callaghan Innovation Board says it approved the applications after a rigorous assessment process and a final recommendation from an independent panel.

“The response from the market has been really positive, with a considerable number of high quality applications from across New Zealand,” science and innovation minister Steven Joyce says.

Joyce says there was a high rate of collaboration between applicants on proposals, especially within regions.

“Collaboration bodes well for developing and growing new companies in our high tech sector, which is crucial to growing our economy. If we can work smarter across industries and improve our access to innovation we will have a competitive edge in this dynamic and challenging sector,” he says.

The government announced last year it would offer the grants of up to $450,000 per company to help technology startups commercialise their ideas.

The government set aside $31.3 million over four years in last year’s budget, with the new incubators adding funds of at least 25 percent of the startup’s costs. Callaghan Innovation distributes the government’s contribution.

It put out an expression of interest for the remodelled programme last December.

New Zealand Trade and Enterprise’s Incubator Support Programme was launched in 2001 to fund seven incubators. They receive between 50 and 65 percent of their operational funding through the programme.

Owners of the new incubators have to match the $450,000 over two years at a rate of one to three. Eligible startups need to have IP or capital-intensive products or services, propects for high-value export growth and a global outlook; commercial viability and identified markets, novel, complex technology and entrepreneurial ability, the government said.

Eligible incubator owners have to show at least 51 percent private commercial ownership and a track record in commercialising new technologies, strong tech transfer relationships, access to investment networks and the ability to attract and develop entrepreneurial talent.

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