The year that was

Published Dec 20, 2017

At the beginning of the year, I wrote that 2017 would be one of Viclink’s biggest years to date and now, as I reflect back, it’s safe to say that it has been. 

Not only did the number of disclosures from Victoria University’s researchers increase from 38 last year to 45 this year, the nature and quality of inventions disclosed seem to improve more each year. I think this reflects the increasing quality of research and development at Victoria, which is enhancing the University’s reputation for entrepreneurial excellence as a result. 

Much of the progress that occurred in our very healthy pipeline this year has been thanks to KiwiNet, which continued to invest in many of our projects—and our people. Eight of Victoria’s young researchers were awarded KiwiNet Emerging Innovator Awards in recognition of the commercial potential of their early stage research—making up almost half of the total awarded this year—while the Ferrier Institute’s Professor Richard Furneaux took out the top honour at the 2017 KiwiNet Research Commercialisation Awards in June. 

We were delighted by KiwiNet’s recognition of Richard’s entrepreneurial nous, which came in the same year that a new drug, Mundesine®, was approved in Japan—making it only the second New Zealand-invented drug to ever gain an approval, and the first since the 1980s. Richard and his colleague Professor Peter Tyler invented the active ingredient behind an oral drug that treats patients with a specific type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. 

We faced stiff competition to secure, and then renew, a contract to manage the commercialisation process for the Health Innovation Hub (HIH)—a joint venture between three District Health Boards that involves setting up a platform and a process for managing the inventive ideas of medical staff in hospitals for things like new devices and diagnostic tools.  We’ve helped them to secure funding from KiwiNet and are already in discussions with investors to commercialise one of their products. 

Other start-ups to successfully raise significant investment this year include two from the Victoria Entrepreneur Bootcamp (Point Zero and Food Ninja) together with Avalia, Ferronova and AuramerBio, while EdPotential grew its client base with more sales—all of which has been incredibly encouraging. 

Our platform in China is now well established and we are starting to see results. Working alongside our key partner, Beijing Jiaotong University, we’ve helped Victoria's Robinson Research Institute secure a key role in a major contract with the Chinese Government—to design, develop and build a traction transformer (using High Temperature Superconducting technology or HTS) for high speed rail as part of China’s One Belt One Road Initiative. 

It’s been a big year for Robinson’s as they also signed a contract with Lockheed Martin—the global security and aerospace giant—which will see them contributing to a major and exciting aerospace project using HTS technology. 

Another new partnership that’s being driven by the One Belt One Road Initiative—but which focuses on biotechnology and medical products—was formed between Viclink, Victoria and the Hunan Zhaotai Research Medical Group. Since the official opening of the Wellington-Changsha Innovation Technology Transfer Centre earlier this year, we’ve been working with them on a number of projects in our pipeline. 

It’s been a busy year for student entrepreneurship initiatives. The 2016/17 Victoria Entrepreneur Bootcamp produced a number of start-ups that have gone from strength to strength this year, and the 2017/18 programme is now well underway. We instigated and sponsored a start-up event for budding Pasifika students in November, and were core organisers of Wellington’s Climathon and the National Social Enterprise Challenge events.  Other Viclink initiatives included putting a focus on building a more expansive approach to entrepreneurship with the Victoria Business School.

Viclink subsidiary Accent Learning continued to deliver on its contract with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, to provide English Language Training for Officials (ELTO), putting in place formal partnerships with service providers in Laos, Cambodia, Indonesia and Myanmar, and doubling the number of intakes since last year.

Accent also partnered with UniServices to explore other possible development projects for MFAT, delivering on Victoria’s strategic intent to have positive impact as a global citizen. 

We took a new approach to early-stage science and technology projects—to ease the transition to fully-fledged start up. We did this by creating Technology Business Units (which remain under Viclink’s umbrella until the businesses are ready to go-it-alone) for three projects – CloudSpec, Rheo-NMR and Dreamflux, all of which have given really positive feedback. 

Finally, the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Grant Guildford, showed strong commitment to, and support of, the work Viclink is doing by signing off on our 10-year strategy. This document outlines exactly how Viclink intends to build on University intellectual property and resources in order to make a significant difference and add value to Victoria, its staff and the region. 

While I will be continuing my role as Viclink’s managing director into next year, Dr Anne Barnett has been promoted to chief executive officer and will be my successor as I gradually phase out of my role and into semi-retirement—although I will still be involved in some projects. 

We’re excited to be heading into 2018 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

Viclink Managing Director