Fund launched to create impact from early-stage innovation

Published Oct 2, 2019

Viclink—Victoria University of Wellington’s commercialisation office—has created a specialised fund aimed at translating early-stage research into products and services that can create positive impact both domestically and globally.  

Known as The Innovate Fund, it was launched to a select group of University alumni and their networks at special events in Auckland and Wellington recently. 

“We received a great deal of positive feedback about the fund at these events,” says Dr Anne Barnett, Viclink’s CEO. “People want to be involved in helping us with the translation of research ideas that have the potential for significant economic, social and human impact.” 

Anne says that the University’s researchers are constantly breaking new ground—from aptamer-based biosensor devices that can be used to detect illicit drugs and monitor fertility, right through to scientific discoveries that couldtrain our own immune systems to recognise and eliminate cancer cells—and need support to help them create impact from their work. 

She says the ‘proof-of-concept fund’ will enable Viclink to identify and assess early-stage research that would benefit from acceleration through funding, ultimately translating the projects into new, deep-technology businesses. Viclink will seed The Innovate Fund with up to $1m in the first year, and is now seeking to raise the balance from donors to establish a total fund of $10m.  

“It’s a globally-recognised model that provides an entry point for donors looking to support research-driven economic, social and human impact,” says Anne.  

Innovate Fund investment in Viclink can be matched dollar for dollar by the New Zealand Government via KiwiNet’s Pre-Seed Accelerator Fund (PSAF), enabling impact to be achieved sooner.

“Support from the Innovate Fund will result in our world-leading research becoming a commercial reality far more quickly—ensuring the economic, social, and environmental impacts of the research are realised more promptly,” says Professor Grant Guilford, the University’s Vice-Chancellor, who spoke at the Wellington event. 

He says that it will also support the development of well-rounded entrepreneurs by funding scholarships for innovative academics who wish to follow their invention into the commercial world. 

The Innovate Fund will be maintained through the Victoria University Foundation, in a non-endowed fund, with all interest—and a proportion of returns from resulting spin-out companies—reinvested in the fund. “We have a dedicated fund manager, and development opportunities will be independently assessed against pre-agreed criteria via the KiwiNet Investment Committee,” Anne explains. 

But she says the support they are seeking is not solely financial.  

“Some donors may prefer to help grow New Zealand’s talent base by contributing their skills and experience to the development of our entrepreneurial academics, connecting them with opportunities and contacts within the innovation ecosystem.” 

Further fund launches are being planned to reach alumni in Australia, Asia, the United Kingdom and the United States next year. “We’re excited to see how the Innovate Fund can help University researchers to create even more impact,” says Anne. 

For more information, visit our Innovate Fund page or email anne.barnett@wellingtonuniventures.nz

Photo caption: At the Wellington launch of the Innovate Fund (L to R) - Dr Anne Barnett (Viclink CEO), Professor Grant Guilford (Victoria University of Wellington Vice-Chancellor), Hamish Findlay (Viclink General Manager, Commercialisation) and Neil Paviour-Smith (Victoria University of Wellington Chancellor).