Focusing on the journey

Published Feb 1, 2021

With three more Victoria University of Wellington scientists accepted into the latest intake of KiwiNet’s Emerging Innovator Programme, Wellington UniVentures—who nominated them for the programme—saw an additional opportunity to add value to the innovators’ entrepreneurial journeys.

“Normally, once a researcher has disclosed an idea to us, our team of two Analysts will screen it to assess its commercial potential,” says Dr Paul Geraghty, the Wellington UniVentures’ Commercialisation Manager who manages the team. “In this instance we saw a great opportunity to expose the emerging innovators to our internal screening process—it’s a fantastic introduction to how the wider team undertakes a commercial screening to discover the best path forward.”

Paul says the screening process involves finding potential markets for the products or services that are likely to stem from the researchers’ inventions, and investigating the best process to reach them.

“It’s easy to make assumptions about who their customers might be, so the analysis process focuses on understanding who the end user is, and who is willing to pay for the technology—ensuring inventors gain a full picture of the available options and what the journey to market involves.”

Analyst Sam Wojcik says that he and fellow Analyst, Mick Riley, are meeting regularly with the inventors over the course of their Emerging Innovator Programme—something he says is already proving its worth.

“It means we can literally work alongside each other,” says Sam. “Questions from both sides can be asked and answered immediately, leading to a really strong understanding of the technology for the Analyst, and a structured introduction to commercialisation for the inventor.”

He says that working so closely also helps to build strong relationships with each other right from the beginning.

“With commercialisation, it’s not a straightforward path, and there can be many different hurdles along the way that we have to overcome,” says Sam. “If we can all be on the same page and develop open communication, it helps us navigate a smooth and fun commercialisation journey that leads to better outcomes for everyone involved.”

The three inventors are: Joe Schuyt from the School of Chemical and Physical Sciences, who has discovered a novel way to measure radiation; Armano Papageorge from the School of Architecture and Design, who is developing a new method for 3D concrete printing; and Richard Roberts from the Computational Media Innovation Centre, who is building a tool to help animators and motion editors at film and game studios streamline the later stages of the animation process.

Mick is working with Joe and Armano, while Sam has teamed up with Richard—who already has another two disclosures in the pipeline—to commercialise his revolutionary restructure of the motion editing process, which could potentially save movie studios millions of dollars in animation costs.

Says Richard: “Learning how to commercialise your research could quite easily become overwhelming, but having this time with Wellington UniVentures has been invaluable in helping me understand what I need to do. It’s helped to crystallise my thinking, and given me confidence that I’m on the right journey.”

The Analysts and researchers are working together to produce Screening Reports to present to the Intellectual Property Commercialisation team, who will give advice on next steps for each project.

“We are always looking to engage with motivated inventors right from the beginning, and the disclosure process—no matter how early—is a brilliant vehicle to do this,” says Sam. “At the end of the day, we want to help the University’s future entrepreneurs to develop skills that will allow them to translate ideas with impact.”