Looking back as we move forward

Published Feb 3, 2017

Before we launch into what will probably be one of Viclink’s biggest years to date, I’d like to take a moment to reflect on the achievements of 2016 that are paving the way for our future success. 

We made massive strides in many areas last year, thanks to an increasing number of Victoria’s researchers delivering superb commercialisation opportunities from a range of projects across the University. Our goal, as always, is to work alongside these researchers at multiple levels and stages to help them secure development funding from areas outside their usual channels, enabling them to continue their research and bring it out into the world where it can make a real difference. 

Some of these opportunities will cement Victoria’s position on the international stage; Robinson Research Institute’s groundbreaking research into cryogen-free superconducting magnet systems is being considered for two major aerospace projects in the United States and China, while their MRI technology has just been leased to a major meat processing facility in Australia. All of this on the heels of a multi-million dollar deal they signed with Chinese company Milestone in July, which will see Robinson’s high temperature superconducting (HTS) technology underpin a ground-breaking device that could cut the heavy energy use of Beijing’s subway system by forty percent. 

Milestone is one of the principal investors in Weimei, the company Viclink established earlier this year to develop and manufacture both the HTS device and pod MRIs for Chinese hospitals. While Weimei is investing in the technology, the ‘know-how’ and the component manufacturing remains firmly in New Zealand which is a great result for our economy. Also in China, we began to establish a joint China-New Zealand Innovation Center in Suzhou Industrial Park (SIP), in order to open up scientific, technological and investment activities between the two countries.

Back home, we’ve been working with Dr Ben Ruck, Dr Franck Natali and Emeritus Professor Joe Trodahl, from Victoria’s School of Chemical and Physical Sciences, whose research into Rare Earth Nitride materials has the potential to be applied in low-energy, high performance, next generation memory elements for use in data centre storage and superconducting computing. 

Moving into the area of health, a potential therapeutic treatment for Alzheimer’s disease being developed by Victoria’s Ferrier Research Institute and the University of Liverpool took several major steps forward in 2016. To support the pre-clinical development programme, Viclink secured $392,000 of funding for the project from KiwiNet’s Pre-Seed Accelerator Fund, alongside more than £250,000 secured from the UK Alzheimer’s Society. In addition, Viclink, through the Ferrier Research Institute, gained membership of the Medical Research Commercialisation Fund (MRCF)—a world-renowned organisation that invests in commercialising early-stage medical research discoveries. The first New Zealand member to get a project in front of MRCF, Ferrier’s Alzheimer’s project has passed the first stage of the three-step funding application process and is under development for a full investment proposal. 

In other successes on the health front, Viclink secured a licence and development agreement for jointly owned Ferrier IP around a natural treatment for stomach ulcers, and in the medical device space, Viclink’s start-up Boutiq Sciences joined forces with the University of South Australia to form a new company – Ferronova. The business will focus on commercialising their joint technology—an ultrasensitive magnetic probe, which works in conjunction with Boutiq’s iron core nanoparticle tracers to enable surgeons to detect the spread of cancer throughout the body. 

Viclink continued its support of entrepreneurial postgraduate students, supporting the School of Chemical and Physical Sciences’ Brendan Darby and Nick Monohan to secure emerging innovator scholarships, as well as substantial pre-seed accelerator funding to progress development of two exciting instrumentation projects.  Working alongside Matthias Meyer, Brendan is developing CloudSpec, a UV-VIS spectrometer with the capability to analyse cloudy and turbid solutions, initially focusing on applications in the wine industry.  Nick is progressing a novel Terahertz Camera technology with a focus on border security applications.  Both projects have partnered with industry for their initial development, and are supported by commercial mentors. 

But it’s not just about the sciences. Victoria’s academics are creating some great commercialisation opportunities in other areas as well, such as the humanities, education and business. 

From the School of Linguistics and Applied Language Studies came an idea to create a business based around translation services. From education, what began as an idea to improve student achievement became an incorporated business last year (Ed Potential Ltd), while KiVa, a proven anti-bullying programme developed in Finland, was introduced to around 15 New Zealand primary schools by Viclink subsidiary Accent Learning. Accent also delivered English language training in New Zealand to 106 South East Asian government officials and 32 officials from Africa under their ELT Services contract with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT), while offshore, the team established partnerships in Laos, Cambodia, Indonesia and Myanmar to help MFAT prepare prospective New Zealand ASEAN Scholars for postgraduate study in New Zealand. 

In the Business School, we’ve been working alongside Dr Richard Norman to investigate the commercial potential of his idea for aiding the planning of meetings and engaging with students, staff and other users. Students are also involved in the exploration of this idea, giving them an insight into the commercialisation process and supporting entrepreneurial behaviour at Victoria.

2016 produced a record number of invention disclosures for Viclink with a total of 38 received from nine different schools and research institutes at Victoria, giving us a solid pipeline of research with commercial potential. We’re excited to be heading into 2017 in such a strong position, and we look forward to continuing our long-term relationships with Victoria’s innovative researchers as we seek to support them at each and every stage of the commercialisation process.

Geoff Todd
Managing Director, Viclink,