Environment & Engineering

Going round in circles for good

Published Jun 26, 2020

Thanks to Wellington UniVentures’ connections, a Victoria University of Wellington research project has been accepted into a nine-month Circular Economy Programme with Innovyz—an Australian commercialisation company focused on ‘turning great ideas into great companies who do things that matter to the world’.

“We were looking for inventions that not only have global relevance and can be rapidly scaled, but which also align with a circular economy—where materials are ‘circulated’ or reused in endless cycles—rather than a linear (take, make, dispose) economy,” says Brett Jackson, Innovyz Co-Founder. “Not only did the project proposed by Wellington UniVentures fit the bill, we really liked and trusted the researcher behind the innovation—which is something we put a lot of value on.”

The project involves commercialising a game-changing building design—developed by Ged Finch during his  PhD study at the School of Architecture—that has the potential to eliminate waste and reduce the amount of raw materials being used by the building industry (about 1.6 million tonnes every year, accounting for approximately half of all New Zealand's waste).

Known as X-Frame, Ged’s self-braced, interlocking design centres around a framing system that can be rapidly assembled and disassembled, enabling it to be re-used at the end of a building’s useful life—with no waste produced at any stage of a building’s lifecycle. 

“Ged has been working on this technology for some time, and we’ve been walking alongside him to offer support and opportunities such as the Circular Economy Programme wherever we can,” says Liam Sutton, Wellington UniVentures Commercialisation Manager.  “Having Innovyz on board will help us to transition the project to the next level, giving us access to new and extended networks.”

Liam says that it’s important for Wellington UniVentures to leverage outside expertise and connections where necessary to advance the University’s research.  “We never profess to have all the answers, so it’s important for us to keep building our networks and ensure we collaborate with the right people at the right time for the benefit of our researchers.”

Innovyz has a wealth of experience in commercialising new technology, having raised more thanAUD$150 million of capital for its stable of innovators, andlisted three of their spin-out companies on the Australian stock exchange.

Hamish Findlay, Wellington UniVentures’ General Manager Commercialisation, says that being able to leverage this experience represents a huge opportunity for Ged.

“Having a launch pad in Australia is a natural progression for New Zealand innovations,” says Hamish. “It will help Ged to create impact in the world sooner rather than later—and give him a pathway to access future markets in the United States of America.”

But it’s how Innovyz works with researchers that differs to many other tech incubators as Brett explains.

“It’s our belief that researchers should be allowed to continue to do what they love—i.e. research—rather than turning them into CEOs,” he says. “So what we do is appoint a General Manager for each team on the programme to focus on the business side of things—from creating business development strategies to sourcing manufacturing partners etc.—and drive that opportunity to the finish.”

Tokoroa-born Brett says that working with Wellington UniVentures—who introduced him to Ged and the X-Frame project—has been a real pleasure. “We developed a very good relationship right from the start, built on honesty and trust. Best of all, Wellington UniVentures has more opportunities in their pipeline than you can poke a stick at, so we’re looking forward to partnering on more projects in the future to rapidly commercialise and scale other new inventions.”