Environment & Engineering

Two halves make a whole approach to commercialisation

Published Nov 29, 2019

A newly created half-and-half role—shared between the Research Office and Viclink—reflects a first-of-its-kind approach to commercialising Victoria University of Wellington’s research.

Dr Nicole van der Laak took on the dual role of Enterprise Development Advisor (EDA) for the Research Office, and Commercialisation Manager for Viclink, back in September 2019.

“The idea is that Nicole becomes something of a ‘human pipeline,’ connected to every stage of the commercialisation process from beginning to end,” says Jayashree Panjabi, who manages the Enterprise Development team for the Research Office.

Jayashree says that at the start of the process, Nicole wears her ‘EDA hat’ to attract funding from a range of potential investors—outside of traditional funding sources such as Marsden grants—in order to develop early-stage concept research with commercial potential. After that, she switches into her Commercialisation Manager role to help translate that more developed research into products or services with impact.

“The Research Office and Viclink have a shared goal really—to develop the University’s research into valuable outcomes that change lives—we’re just at different ends of the process,” says Jayashree. “Our two teams are already located together on Level 9 in the Rankine Brown building so that ‘all the moving parts’ are on the same floor; this new, shared role just further cements the links between our teams.”

Jayashree says that Nicole’s background makes her a natural fit to work with the University’s researchers at the Robinson Research Institute.

“Nicole not only holds a PhD in Materials Science from the University of Cambridge—after being awarded a Gates Cambridge Scholarship to study there—she also brings a wealth of international experience in translating research into commercial outcomes, having worked for research institutions and industry in Australia, England, Scotland and Hong Kong.”

Hamish Findlay, Viclink’s General Manager, Commercialisation, says it is still early days but that everyone is excited about the potential of Nicole’s role.

“We want to see if this new model could be the way forward for the future commercialisation of University research,” says Hamish.

“It’s our hope that the Robinson Research Institute, the wider Engineering School and the rest of the University will benefit from having Nicole involved in their research from idea to impact, giving researchers the very best chance of success.”