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Tiro Lifesciences receives first Kiwi repayable grant

Tiro Lifesciences will receive the first repayable grant through Callaghan Innovation’s expanded business incubator network, says Steven Joyce, Science and Innovation Minister, New Zealand Government.

In March of this year, Callaghan Innovation invited businesses throughout the country to apply to become part of an extended network of business incubators.

Technology focused incubators are privately owned businesses that concentrate on commercialising complex intellectual property sourced from publicly funded research organisations such as universities and Crown research institutes.

The incubator system is modelled on the successful Israeli system and aims to encourage innovative and complex technology based start-ups.

Following consultation with the New Zealand start-up community, a number of organisations in the government sector, and international experts, the request for proposals was issued.

Callaghan Innovation said businesses would also be able to access a new repayable grants programme on behalf of the start-up companies they incubate.

Joyce says Cabinet agreed in Budget 2013 to allocate $31.3 million in new funding over four years for the repayable grants.

“The Government will contribute up to $450,000 over two years to successful applicants, and this funding is matched 1:3 by incubator owners contributing up to $150,000," he says.

Chris Somogyi, GM of Accelerator Services, Callaghan Innovation, says, “New Zealand has not been creating enough high value companies."

“The modified incubator support programme and the new repayable grants programme that comes with it were designed to address this shortcoming and will remove much of the risk currently preventing the private sector from investing in early-stage, IP-rich start-ups.”

In July, Callaghan Innovation approved eight incubators as part of the expanded Incubator Programme. Tiro Lifesciences was among the eight and is incubated through Christchurch based Powerhouse Ventures.

Joyce says, "Technology-focused incubators are designed to get more high-growth start-ups off the ground. Growing new companies in our high-tech sector is crucial to maintaining a strongly growing economy."

"Bringing more smart start-ups through the innovation pipeline will help New Zealand develop a competitive edge in this dynamic and challenging sector,” he says.

Tiro Lifesciences is the first company to receive a repayable grant. The early stage medical diagnostic company has a heavy focus on the development of technology for the detection of breast cancer in dense tissue.

The company has been granted up to $450,000 over two years, and it’s said this money will be spent on developing a pain and radiation free medical imaging tool.

“It’s great to see this kind of company, based on exciting intellectual property, coming out of the new technology incubators as envisioned,” Joyce says.