Stronger links between small and medium enterprises and several of New Zealand’s Institutes of Technologies and Polytechnics are in the works with a new initiative launched yesterday.
Unitec, Manukau Institute of Technology, Waikato Institute of Technology, Wellington Institute of Technology (WelTec), Christchurch Polytechnic (CPIT) and Otago Polytechnic are part of the new Voucher Scheme from Metro Group. The scheme is a funding programme to allow SMEs and NGOs to tap into the research capability the institutes hold, and will see grants of up to $5,000 provided to a business willing to match that amount to create a research project.
There is also space for not-for-profits and community groups to have the research fully funded by an institution.
Closer links between the institutes and the industries, government agencies and community groups they work with will have benefits for all parties. Researchers gain valuable experience from working on projects that are answering specific questions for industry, while external partners receive funding, support and guidance on research projects.
WelTec assisted Creek Grange ACE Limited to adapt an already successful product for new markets. The company had developed a gas-powered projectile used for avalanche control in New Zealand and many countries overseas and had been approached to see if the device could be modified to control weeds and gorse in difficult-to-access areas and for wider coverage. This became a research and development project, ideal for Wellington Institute of Technology New Zealand Diploma in Engineering student, James Wu (who is now working as an R&D Engineer at Miracle Electronic). As a result of this collaboration, a new electronic activator was developed by WelTec for field testing.
Richard Wanhill, WelTec’s director Business Development & Partnerships says the voucher scheme is designed to be fast and inclusive.
“The focus isn’t on hurdles. The focus is on ‘Why wouldn’t we do this?’ And for the sake of $5,000 we’re not going to go too heavy on compliance – we want to make it easy for industry to do R&D with the tertiary education sector,” he says.
Wanhill says the scheme is a great opportunity for SMEs and organisations to access research support from WelTec at an affordable cost.
“Because the nature of our research is more applied and often more relevant or practical to their needs, it’s more likely that those businesses will get a better result from that money,” he explains. “It’s also a way of fostering connections between our academic and research staff (Business & IT, Creative Technologies and Engineering in particular) with local industries and employers, so it’s actually helping build connections.”