Medical Technologies CoRE launches in Auckland

The Medical Technologies Centre of Research Excellence (MedTech CoRE) was formally launched in Auckland on Friday 30 October by the Minister for Science & Innovation Steven Joyce.

Hosted by the University of Auckland, with funding from the Tertiary Education Commission, the MedTech CoRE is a consortium of researchers from Auckland University of Technology, Callaghan Innovation, the Universities of Auckland, Canterbury and Otago, and Victoria University of Wellington who are working together to deliver a single point of contact for New Zealand’s medical technology research.

MedTech CoRE director Distinguished Professor Peter Hunter says the collaboration will have far reaching impacts on the New Zealand economy as well as in terms of medical treatments in the future.

“The MedTech CoRE provides New Zealand with a tremendous opportunity to take a leading role in our emerging medical technology field. Already a number of New Zealand companies are starting to make their mark on the sector and our role is to assist them where we can in terms of research and development.”

At the launch research projects from the CoRE were showcased.

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TIN 200 companies grow to $9 billion

The release of the annual TIN report on the performance of New Zealand’s top hi-tech companies shows further rapid growth in revenues, exports, staff numbers, and research and development activity, says Science and Innovation Minister Steven Joyce.

The Technology Investment Network’s 2015 TIN Report reveals New Zealand’s TIN 200 companies collectively grew to $8.952 billion in annual revenue, a $600 million (7.3 per cent) increase over last year.

“The report shows our hi-tech businesses are an impressive growth story that are rapidly diversifying the New Zealand economy,” Mr Joyce says. “Export revenues are up by 7.5 per cent to an all-time high of $6.5 billion and a record 19 companies now have revenues of $100 million or more.

“Job growth across the TIN200 has accelerated with 2410 new jobs created in 2014/15, taking total job numbers to 37,333.”

The report shows companies achieving revenue growth in all regions of New Zealand, growth in all three major technology sectors – ICT, manufacturing and biotechnology – and in every major export market.

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AUT professor wins supreme innovator award for potential cancer treatment

An AUT Professor whose work could forever change the way cancer is treated was named Supreme Innovator at the New Zealand Innovators Awards last night.

Steve Henry is the CEO of KODE Biotech Ltd and Professor of Biotech Innovation at Auckland University of Technology. Professor Henry’s most high profile work has been developing a “coating” for a UK company that has developed a novel cancer therapy. The coating changes the appearance of cancer cells, making them take on the appearance of an animal cell, which the immune system already knows how to reject.

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2015 Nobel Prize for Chemistry Goes to DNA Repair Scientists

This year’s Nobel Prize in Chemistry was given to three scientists who made vital contributions in the study of how cells repair DNA and maintain genomic integrity. Dr. Tomas Lindahl from Francis Crick Institute had discoveries in base excision repair, the pathway that constitutes the bulk of DNA restoration during the cell cycle from alkylation, methylation, and oxidative stress. Dr. Paul Modrich from Duke University was recognized for his efforts in elucidating how cells resolve errors that happen during DNA replication. Dr. Aziz Sancar from the University of North Carolina was acknowledged for his pioneering study on the nucleotide excision repair pathway.
The discoveries of these three Nobel laureates provided essential insights into how cells function and maintain their genomic stability. This knowledge is integral to the development of new cancer treatments, and lately find application in crop improvement through new breeding techniques.

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Angels consolidated during first half

Angel funds invested $20.6 million during the first six months of the year, which was $5 million lower than the same period in 2014 as the sector enters a period of consolidation, the New Zealand Venture Investment Fund’s Investment Director Chris Twiss said today.

Releasing the latest Young Company Finance Index, Chris Twiss said that investment activity is healthy but angel networks and fund investors are showing more caution.

“The first half of the year saw a higher level of ‘follow-on’ investment into existing portfolio companies compared with ‘new’ investment into new companies.  Over 75 percent of the investment during the six months was follow-on investment.

“Investors are a little more cautious given changes in the general economic climate. This is a trend we have seen before following periods of high investment, with angels shifting their focus to follow-on deals in subsequent years.

“The second half of 2015 will be more telling in terms of how wider events are impacting on early stage investing by angel networks and funds.  It is likely the full year will be somewhat down on the previous year, reflecting a level of restraint driven by recent events in the wider economy.

“That said, there continues to be strong interest in good New Zealand technology, especially where there is a global market opportunity, and the role of risk capital stimulating and supporting start-up companies is even more important in this climate.”

Angel Association chair Marcel van den Assum said that the $20.6 million of investment in the first half of the year reflects consistent support for quality early stage investment opportunities.

“Angels are coming off a previous year which saw a lot of new investment.  When economic conditions tighten, it is natural that investors will look to continue to support those companies in their portfolio which are doing well and meeting milestones.  That is borne out by the higher level of follow-on investment we are seeing in the market.

“Nonetheless, the sector is now an important part of our capital markets, investing around $50 million a year into very young companies.  Angels are a critical part of the deepening that we have seen in our early-stage capital markets over the past few years.  With the emergence of crowdfunding platforms, angels will be watching how that part of the market develops over the next few years.”

Forty-three percent ($8.8 million) of the investment during the first half of 2015 was into software and service companies, continuing that sector’s strong performance.  The next most active sector for investment was pharmaceuticals and biotechnology, which saw 16.5% ($3.4 million) of investment.

After a very busy period in the second half of 2014, the year to 30 June 2015 saw another $50 million-plus level of investment with $50.5 million invested into young companies. This is in line with the sums invested over the last three years.  Cumulatively, $374 million has now been invested into young companies by angel funds and networks since the Young Company Finance Index began measuring activity in 2006.

Click here to read the latest issue of Startup.

Government PreSeed investment transforming the way Kiwi Science gets to market

PRESS RELEASE: KiwiNet, Return On Science and CDC Innovation

 WELLINGTON, NZ – 8 October 2015 – An independent review released today on the impact of the first ten years of the Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) PreSeed Accelerator Fund shows more publicly funded science discoveries are getting to market after a decade of Government PreSeed investment.  The review was released jointly by KiwiNet, Return On Science and CDC Innovation, all members of MBIE’s Commercialisation Partner Network.

The review of PreSeed investment into fifteen universities and crown research institutes from 2003 to 2013 showed 573 projects, from biodegradable polymers to advanced sonar technologies for scanning the seabed, had received $42.6 million in Government PreSeed investment.  This was matched with a further $90.9 million of co-funding from research organisations and external investors.

The 573 projects reviewed resulted in more than 386 licenses, numerous start-ups, and other commercial deals that have the estimated potential to generate at least 460 jobs and up to $3.0 billion in export revenues for New Zealand. The report states that the actual returns to the research organisations alone have already reached $188.2 million, with many more projects still in development.

Dr Bram Smith, General Manager of KiwiNet, a consortium of 15 universities and crown research institutes and agencies working together to turn research ideas into commercial value says, “MBIE’s PreSeed investment has been a key mechanism for transforming clever science discoveries into commercial opportunities. PreSeed is about science driving business innovation, and the report shows that Government investment in this area is producing good economic returns for New Zealand.”

Return On Science Programme and Commercialisation Director Graham Scown says the Government’s consistent backing of the PreSeed fund is delivering returns to New Zealand. “PreSeed targets research projects early to identify commercial potential and accelerate them towards high value commercial outcomes.  As such it is high risk and each project has complex barriers to overcome.  PreSeed enables world class expertise to be engaged on these projects, mitigate those risks and barriers, and as this report demonstrates, ongoing Government support will deliver more and more of these significant outcomes to New Zealand.”

Hon Pete Hodgson, CEO of Otago Innovation says, “A return of over four times the Government PreSeed contribution was reported over the first decade.  Importantly this return has enabled further investment into research and commercialisation projects which is extremely encouraging.”

PreSeed success stories include Cawthron Natural Compounds, Avalia Immunotherapies from the University of Victoria, ESR’s STRmix™, ArcActive a spin out company from the University of Canterbury, CropLogic from Plant & Food Research, TOXINZ database developed by the University of Otago, Electronic Navigation Ltd which acquired WASSP intellectual property developed by Callaghan Innovation, and HaloIPT a spin out company from the University of Auckland.  Aduro Biopolymers and Ligar Polymers, commercialised by WaikatoLink, have also recently completed major deals.

Duncan Mackintosh, CEO of WaikatoLink, the commercial arm of the University of Waikato comments, “Getting research to an investor ready stage is very often a long term process. It’s encouraging to see PreSeed investment and the increasingly collaborative efforts of research organisations delivering results.  Momentum is really building and we’re seeing more successful projects being supported by the private sector at an earlier stage and significantly more market uptake and success.”

The report shows at the start of the review period in 2003 there were only a handful of projects receiving PreSeed investment, while in 2013 this had grown to 120 projects a year.

David Hughes, Group General Manager Commercial at Plant & Food Research says, “PreSeed has enabled CRI’s to explore applications for their technology outside the traditional core business.  Collectively we’ve now developed an incredible platform for unlocking the commercial potential of scientific discoveries.”

Auckland UniServices GM Technology Development Will Charles says, “PreSeed investment has shown good returns to New Zealand taxpayers and in many cases it has made the difference between interesting research and successful commercialisation.  The key word in the programme is Accelerator; PreSeed funding has enabled technologies to be developed and brought to market much faster and, as such, to be globally competitive and relevant to business and market needs.”

Dr Kjesten Wiig, National Commercialisation Manager at MBIE says, “The PreSeed Accelerator Fund was set up to enable better commercial returns from research, and it’s well on the way to doing that. The cultural evolution we’re seeing alongside this in the research commercialisation space is essential and very encouraging. PreSeed is helping transforming how we get science to market as we seek to diversify and strengthen New Zealand’s export base.”

A copy of the PreSeed Accelerator Outcomes 10 Year Review can be downloaded from


BusinessNZ says TPP a good deal for New Zealand

BusinessNZ is congratulating Trade Minister Tim Groser and Chief Negotiator David Walker on getting the best deal possible for New Zealand in the Trans Pacific Partnership.

Chief Executive Phil O’Reilly said the TPP deal opens New Zealand up to trading with an important group of economies.

“Multilateral trade deals are the only way to go for a small country like New Zealand. We’re now assured access to an influential group of trading partners in the pivotal Pacific arena, including the US and Japan.”

“This has been a hard deal to conclude with all the competing interests. Concluding these deals requires all parties to make compromises.”

“While we did not get all we wanted out of dairy access, sitting on the side-lines was not an option. This trade bloc represents 40% of world GDP.”

“If New Zealand wants to broaden its economic base and move away from an over-reliance on selling commodity products to the world, we needed to secure a high quality deal that gives greater market access to both goods and services exports and one that encourages investment.

“We also need a good geographic spread of countries we can trade with and TPP gives us access for the first time on a competitive basis to huge markets. The opportunities from this deal will be bigger than our FTA with China.

“The deal will also see a fair and predictable investment environment for companies investing in overseas markets.”

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National Statement of Science Investment 2015-2025

The Government believes excellent, high impact science is fundamental to our ability to achieve excellent economic, environmental, social, and cultural outcomes for New Zealand. The National Statement of Science Investment sets out the Government’s long-term vision for the science system, and a strategic direction to guide future investment.

New Zealand has a unique environment and biodiversity, fast-growing knowledge-intensive sectors, a distinctive and inventive culture, including mātauranga Māori, and world-leading concentrations of scientific expertise. New Zealanders typicallyembrace opportunities to connect internationally through trade and investment, to absorb new ideas from around the world and to contribute to the global pool of knowledge. Our international connections help us generate commercial gain from these strengths and spur innovative change here.

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Editorial: Research cuts are worrying

New Zealand should have the world’s best agricultural science. Our farmers are the most efficient, Fonterra is the leading dairy trader, Federated Farmers sends trade envoys everywhere to testify that agriculture does not have to be a protected industry relying on public subsidies. So when Fed Farmers is concerned at staff cuts in the agricultural science agency, AgResearch, we should be worried.

AgResearch is about to cull about 83 positions in research areas where, it says, “customer demand and the potential to create impact for New Zealand is decreasing”. Customer demand is not something scientists used to have to worry about, but after the economy was exposed to world markets Crown research institutes were obliged to earn their income from industries. Since then, scientists and other research staff have suffered the insecurity and trauma that happens in all organisations in changing markets, and it never gets easier.

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