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Callaghan Innovation boosts support for deep tech startups

19 Dec 2019

Callaghan Innovation has increased support for New Zealand deep tech startups as part of a new tech incubator programme and a new healthtech initiative.

Callaghan Innovation’s Vic Crone announced the new programmes this week, which are designed to help turn tech and science into successful businesses.

Under a new and improved Technology Incubator programme launching in April 2020, deep tech startups will have access to four incubators, up from three in the pilot, as well as higher repayable loan amounts of up to $750,000. The programme is boosted by funding allocated in Budget 2019 along with an additional $9 million funding announced in September.

“There are significant opportunities to turn more of New Zealand’s advanced technologies into successful businesses. Many of these technologies start out at our universities and we want to see them thrive,” says Crone.

“Innovators need the right support in the early phases of their business development, and we want to grow that capability in the ecosystem.”

Four tech incubators were selected for the Technology Incubator programme and are currently in contract negotiations. They include Brandon Capital Partners, Bridgewest Ventures, Sprout, and WNT Ventures.

“Our tech incubators will provide Kiwi innovators with a fantastic breadth of commercialisation support, international and local connections, and access to investment. In addition to this there is specific expertise available for sectors of strategic importance to New Zealand, including agrifood and life sciences,” Crone continues.

“There are also opportunities for New Zealand to create more successful healthtech startups, but there is a wider need to pull together support across the sector, which has more complex, expensive and riskier paths to commercialisation.”

Additionally, the new HealthTech Activator, to be run by Callaghan Innovation and with support from CMDT and MedTech CoRE, will coordinate healthtech support resources and data across the ecosystem.

“The idea is to speed up the journey of healthtech startups by better connecting, demystifying commercial avenues and reducing risks,” says Crone.

The HealthTech Activator initiative has been allocated $2 million over four years to cover staffing, operational costs and programme support. While the Activator support services will be virtually accessible across the nation, Callaghan Innovation anticipates establishing two physical nodes to provide a location for early stage healthtech companies to network, hot desk or co-locate for short periods.

About the 2020 Tech Incubators

Brandon Capital Partners

Brandon Capital Partners (Brandon), established in 2007, is a leading life science venture capital firm with a New Zealand and Australian presence. As a life science technology incubator, Brandon will curate and seed promising life sciences research discoveries, providing access to capital, expertise and hands-on training to support the next generation of New Zealand life science companies. With networks and capacity generated through the Medical Research Commercialisation Fund (MRCF), and with staff in NZ, Australia, USA and the UK, it brings a strong international perspective. Brandon has over $700 million in funds under management with the capacity to provide significant funding to support ideas through to commercialisation.

Bridgewest Ventures

Bridgewest Ventures is part of the Bridgewest Group (“Bridgewest”), a US-based investment company, which also operates a Technology Incubator in San Diego, California. Bridgewest has been successful in its ability to incubate and launch major global innovation-led companies and intends to leverage this experience to replicate the same successful model in New Zealand. Bridgewest’s deep technology experience is wide-ranging and includes biotechnology, agri-tech, pharmaceuticals, UAV technology, IoT and semiconductor, AI and software development, as well as drug discovery and deep research into health technology. It intends to leverage its connections, international reach, and commercialisation experience to transform New Zealand opportunities into world-class companies.

Sprout

Sprout is an existing Callaghan Innovation-funded business accelerator based in Palmerston North and has been working with agrifood tech start-ups since 2014. Its focus is investment in technologies that improve the efficiency and sustainability of food production and distribution. As a newly appointed Callaghan Technology Incubator, Sprout will extend its activities to provide emerging agritech and future food start-ups with a pathway to global markets and international investment networks. Sprout’s technology incubator has a mix of international, local and sector-focused investors including Gallagher, Fonterra, Finistere Ventures and OurCrowd.

WNT Ventures

Deep-tech incubator, WNT Ventures, was created in 2014 through a collaboration with experienced entrepreneurs and institutional capital providers. Its key mission is to support the commercialisation of complex technology by sourcing, investing in and incubating high growth early stage businesses with global potential. WNT has interests in sustainability, agritech and food, artificial intelligence, medtech, engineering, sensing and industrial automation. During the pilot technology incubator programme, WNT has raised and invested two funds totalling $7.8 million and alongside Callaghan Innovation have invested in 14 companies throughout New Zealand.