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Callaghan Innovation seeks incubators to fuel NZ’s deep-tech growth

Callaghan Innovation, New Zealand-based innovation agency, is seeking incubators locally as well as globally to help advance the tech commercialisation of the country.

The request for proposals (RFP) was established to help fuel Callaghan Innovation’s Technology incubator programme, which is launching in 2020 and will run over an eight-year contract period. It primarily targets businesses with tech commercialisation experience and will run until Friday 4 October 2019.

Those successful in their proposal will help to develop technical and scientific research in New Zealand, and ensure technology translates to successful commercial outcomes.

Furthermore, those successful will aid in networking and pivotal connections as well as provide experience dealing with international markets and investment.

Incubators are expected to establish a significant presence in New Zealand, including the permanent location of key management and incubation expertise in this country.

Callaghan Innovation chief executive Vic Crone, says, “We are looking for incubators that have a wealth of international commercialisation expertise, access to international investment and pathways to market.”

“We have some excellent expertise and knowledge here that the programme can draw on, and the RFP also presents opportunities for international providers who are willing to establish a team here,” Crone says.

The incubators will be expected to report regularly and share data on the progress and deep tech commercialisation milestones of the companies they’re working with.

“New Zealand’s deep-tech ecosystem is fast-emerging. We have a rich well of deep technical and scientific research with the potential to solve many problems, here and around the world. But if we’re to ensure this IP makes it into the world and is converted into successful commercial outcomes - high value businesses, jobs and exports - we must have the right mentors, connections and capital in place,” says Crone.

Having access to the right support, expertise and connections is crucial for businesses starting out, according to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s general manager of science, innovation and international, Dr Peter Crabtree.

“It can be a tough road creating productive businesses out of complex research like biotech and aerospace technology. The Technology Incubator programme bridges that gap between concept and commercialisation,” says Crabtree.

KiwiNet CEO James Hutchinson says the next phase of the Technology Incubator programme will provide a critical bridge between the increase of deep-tech propositions emerging from KiwiNet’s research commercialisation pipeline with follow-on growth capital, including Government’s recently-announced $300M Venture Fund.

Hutchinson says, “Successful commercialisation of deep-tech is a complex beast that requires a unique combination of skill-sets and capability, especially in developing business models based on complex intellectual property.”

“Incubators with robust knowledge, experience, networks and mana in deep-tech will be critical to identifying and understanding how to mitigate the unique risks associated with science-based start-ups,” he says.

The Technology Incubator pilot programme, which launched in 2014, has produced 45 new deep tech start-ups and attracted more than $50 million in investments since its inception.

Invert Robotics chief technology officer James Robertson, who last month announced the company had  secured a US$8.8 million round of funding, says being part of the Technology Incubator programme was important to the development of his company.

He says, “I had solid technical knowledge of my field but next to no experience in business or running a company. I learned a wide range of skills from people within the incubation environment, and gained invaluable insights around product market fit and working with customers to create a market.”

“Being in the incubator environment also meant I had training and coaching around pitching and capital raising, access to investors, and assistance with preparation of deal documentation,” he says.