Health & Biotech

Making a difference inside and out

health-biotech

Published Jan 22, 2020

In a move that supports the wider New Zealand innovation ecosystem, Wellington UniVentures is helping to commercialise research developed outside of Victoria University of Wellington—enabling other organisations with a strong research focus to step directly into a fully functioning commercialisation process without the time and cost required to establish their own. 

“We’re providing our expertise on a fee-for-service basis to help each organisation grow a pipeline of ideas so they can get them out into the world where they can have impact,” says Hamish Findlay, Wellington UniVentures General Manager, Commercialisation. 

Wellington UniVentures has been working with the New Zealand Health Innovation Hub (NZHIH) since 2016, supporting District Health Board (DHB) innovators to develop their smart ideas into new products and services that make a real difference to people’s health, reduce the cost of care and make clinicians’ jobs easier and more effective. 

“DHB clinicians often have good ideas on how to improve the quality and safety of service delivery,” says Dr Helen Lunt, from Canterbury District Health Board (the DHB that will lead NZHIH from 2020). “But traditionally, if commercial ‘know how’ is needed to get the idea out to others, DHBs have found that they simply don’t have the bandwidth to look at commercialisation opportunities themselves.” 

Dr Lunt says the partnership brings two worlds of expertise together to give them a route to commercialisation. “Our clinicians work closely alongside Wellington UniVentures' commercialisation managers to assess new ideas, then they help us to move forward the ones with the most potential.”

Wellington UniVentures provides the DHB innovators with specialist legal advice relating to the protection of any intellectual property (IP) involved, and connects them to commercialisation funding opportunities outside of traditional research funding offerings. “They have helped broaden our thinking around clinical research activities,” says Dr Lunt. 

She says that innovation has been particularly important to Canterbury DHB since the Christchurch earthquakes in 2010 and 2011, as damage to buildings and equipment accelerated the DHB’s journey towards creating lean processes by leveraging new digital health tools. “Two of our employees are currently working with Wellington UniVentures to develop a low-cost simulator that turns everyday clinical monitors into simulation tools,” says Dr Lunt. “This will give our clinical teams the ability to practice rare, unanticipated or critical events so they are better prepared to meet such situations in real life.”

Innovation is also a key driver for Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research, one of New Zealand’s seven Crown Research Institutes (CRIs), with more than 250 researchers spread across eight locations.

“Our aim is to be innovative in the way we support the management of New Zealand’s land environment and biodiversity,” says Stephen Lorimer, Manaaki Whenua’s General Manager Development, who first contracted Viclink’s specialist commercialisation services in 2017. “If our researchers develop new technologies or processes that could improve New Zealand’s biodiversity and environment, then the public has a right to expect those benefits to be realised—and that’s what Wellington UniVentures is helping us to do via the commercialisation or acceleration pathway. It’s one of a number of ways we use to turn our innovations into reality.” 

Stephen says that having Wellington UniVentures on board allows Manaaki Whenua’s own team to focus on identifying and accelerating the organisation’s most important commercialisation projects—involving such things as the control of predators and plants that negatively impact New Zealand’s flora and fauna—and driving those projects to the finish.  

“Our people come up with the ideas for solutions such as novel groundwater meters, new ways of measuring soil properties and predator lures, while Wellington UniVentures has the right skills in-house to help us to determine which ones are worth pursuing commercially—this is often around the novelty of the IP. Being able to access this kind of specialist skill enables us to make good decisions about what to focus on; it’s a real example of synergy—working better by working together.”

The third organisation—and second CRI—to most recently contract Wellington UniVentures' commercialisation services is GNS Science, which Hamish says will only add to the opportunities for cross-over between multiple research organisations, including Victoria University of Wellington.

“The more we grow our connections, the more we can leverage each other’s experience and abilities for the benefit of New Zealand,” he says. 

For further information on Wellington UniVentures' third-party commercialisation services, please email Hamish Findlay or call him on +64 21 618 069.