Entrepreneurship support efforts critical

Published Jul 15, 2020

With an increasing amount of Victoria University of Wellington research showing strong commercial potential—and with the world’s economies in crisis thanks to COVID-19—Wellington UniVentures’ support and development of the University’s entrepreneurs is more critical than ever.

“It’s the individuals who can think, behave and act in an entrepreneurial manner that drive innovation—and ground-breaking innovation helps drive stronger economies,” says Emily Sullivan, Wellington UniVentures’ Entrepreneurship Manager. “So it makes sense for us to provide entrepreneurship support that is people-focused—rather than just project-focused. We want to ensure that today’s students and academics are well-equipped to become tomorrow’s entrepreneurs.”

She says the company is strengthening the support it already provides by deepening its relationships with other parts of the University already engaged with professional development—such as the Centre for Academic Development, and the Wellington Faculty of Graduate Research. “We’re using Wellington UniVentures’ skills, resources and knowledge to create new offerings with our University partners.”

The Centre for Academic Development runs a six-month long programme for incoming academics that requires them to complete 20 hours of professional development, including workshops.  While current workshops focus on teaching and research topics, future options will also include commercialisation and entrepreneurship training.

Emily says they are also working closely with the Wellington Faculty of Graduate Research to develop intellectual property and commercialisation induction sessions for doctoral students. These will be offered up to four times a year to ensure all incoming doctoral students know about Wellington UniVentures and what commercialisation can offer them.

“It’s vitally important that we build awareness of who we are and what we do, and the possibilities offered by commercialisation, right at the very start—with the people who either already have a great idea, or may be about to discover one,” she says. “We want to get them thinking about who might benefit from the commercialisation of their post-graduate research, and how they can use it to create impact.”

And once those great ideas are ready to be developed, Wellington UniVentures can help inventors to transition them into marketable products or services. For those wishing to take the start-up route, this may involve the Wellington UniVentures incubator programme.

“Because product development and startup management can be a little ‘out of left field’ for most researchers, our incubator has been designed to ease the transition from early-stage research into functioning startup.” Emily says that wrapping both project and founder support around a team greatly increases the chances of its long-term success.

She says there is an imperative for universities to provide the right opportunities to stimulate entrepreneurial mindsets, thinking and action, given their role in the innovation economy.

“We’re proud to be the University’s conduit for providing those opportunities because there are so many world-changing ideas coming out of our research here at Te Herenga Waka. If we can help open just a few more doors towards creating impact, then we are making an even bigger difference.”