Promising sci-tech projects gain momentum for commercial success

Momentum, a new Return On Science student-led investment committee which is the first of its kind in New Zealand, has been approved as an official commercialisation partner investment committee by the Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE).

Momentum, which held its first committee meeting in June, provides expert advice and guidance from its team of thirteen senior student and experienced business advisors to research and technology project teams who want to commercialise opportunities from fast-moving student and staff ventures.  

As a result, business and investment sectors can expect to see these ‘pre-seed’ intellectual property (IP) and technology projects coming to market faster and with greater chance of success.  

“Project teams come to this committee with what they believe they want and leave with what they actually need,” explains Return On Science Programme and Commercialisation Director, Graham Scown.

Mr Scown says Momentum provides constructive strategic advice to project teams in an environment that is less intimidating and more in line with students’ cultural expectations.  Momentum is chaired by Daniel Xu PhD, chair and CEO of Spark 64 and a graduate of the Stanford Ignite entrepreneurship programme.

“Committee members find out what project teams currently know, what challenges they anticipate and how they intend to manage them, and identify hidden risks and barriers. They can then offer a ‘road-map’ to enable them to proceed, bring in international network connections, and recommend appropriate funding mechanisms.  Or, they can advise them not to proceed if they feel the project does not have promise. This review system reduces risk for potential investors and provides encouragement for the teams,” he says.

Momentum has already reviewed 12 projects including concepts for autonomous air transport, wind-catchers to ventilate spaces without air-con, an AI-based diagnostic tool for depressive disorders, an STI home-testing kit, an adaptive ad platform using computer vision and the Internet of Things (IOT), and capacitive power transfer.

Return On Science is based on the University of Auckland UniServices’ award-winning commercialisation programme, developed over 25 years of producing significant economic returns from investment in research, and is part of the MBIE Commercialisation Partner Network, along with KiwiNet and CRIS.

“Gaining MBIE accreditation is a testament to the continuing success of the other Return on Science investment committees in nurturing exceptional science and technology projects and supporting their efficient access to capital.”

Return On Science operates four additional specialist investment committees covering Biotechnology and Lifesciences, Information and Communications Technology, Physical Sciences, and Agritechnology and Food Technology.  Some members work across several committees and share their expertise as required.

Mr Scown says New Zealanders have previously gone offshore to see what other countries are doing to encourage entrepreneurship and commercialisation. 

“Now people are coming in droves to see what we’re doing, and particularly how we turned New Zealand’s challenges into unique strengths that we call the New Zealand model.”