Hamilton, New Zealand – 28 November 2008
Unicom, a university commercialisation consortium comprised of WaikatoLink, AUT University, Lincoln University and Canterprise, has appointed the Hon Ruth Richardson, Dr Mark Ahn and Mr Bill Day to an investment committee responsible for overseeing millions in pre-seed investment funds awarded to help commercialise research from the universities.
The Unicom consortium was awarded $4.9 million government pre-seed funding by the Foundation of Science Research and Technology (FRST) earlier in the year. The funds will be employed to unleash the economic potential from the intellectual property in the universities. Collectively the universities receive $4.935 million over 3 years, the largest amount paid from the PreSeed Fund designed to maximise the commercial benefits to New Zealand from publicly funded research.
Mr Mark Stuart, Chief Executive, WaikatoLink says, “We’re delighted to attract such high calibre talent and it is a reflection of the commercial potential of our early stage technologies and the important role university IP will play in the future economic wellbeing of New Zealand. The investment committee will play a key role in helping to prioritise consortium projects and guiding them towards investor readiness. The collective international business experience of our new directors will add a huge amount of commercial capability.”
The Hon Ruth Richardson joins the investment committee as an independent director. A former New Zealand Minister of Finance, she has considerable involvement in the local and international business community chairing Jade Software Corporation Limited, the IMP Diversified Income Fund Limited, SYFT, British Telecom’s Health Advisory Board and the KULA Fund. Ruth Richardson is also a director of the LECG Corporation, Oyster Bay Marlborough Vineyards Limited, Synlait Limited and Ruth Richardson (New Zealand) Limited.
Mr Bill Day and Dr Mark Ahn have also been appointed as independent directors.
Mr Day, one of New Zealand’s leading entrepreneurs, is founder and chief executive of Seaworks, a multimillion-dollar global marine technology company. His company has pioneered techniques for seismic surveying, underwater salvage and the repair and laying of underwater cables and is regarded as the world leader in its field. He is a former Ernst & Young, New Zealand Entrepreneur of the Year Award winner and is vice chairman of the New Zealand Business Roundtable.
Dr Ahn, Chair in Science and Technology Entrepreneurship at Victoria University, has a track record in successfully commercialising science and technology-based innovations. Career highlights include leading a biopharmaceutical cancer care company to a NASDAQ listing and an oncology therapeutic franchise to $1 billion in revenues. He serves on several NASDAQ and private boards including RXi Pharmaceuticals and Access Pharmaceuticals. He is also Chairman of ZyGEM’s newly formed Clinical Advisory Board.
The independent directors will join representatives from each of the university commercialisation groups; Mr Mark Stuart, Chief Executive of WaikatoLink, the commercialisation company of the University of Waikato; Dr Peter John, Director of Research and Commercialisation at Lincoln University; Mr Raiyo Nariman, acting Chief Executive of Canterprise, the University of Canterbury’s knowledge transfer company; and Mr Kevin Pryor, Chief Executive of AUT Enterprises, the commercialisation arm of AUT University.
The consortium approach is a first for the PreSeed Fund. Working collaboratively each group will share their knowledge, expertise, and local and international networks. The fund has the potential to fund dozens of projects from the consortium. The goal for the consortium is to generate the substantial returns WaikatoLink generated from previous PreSeed funding.
“Unicom is extremely well positioned as we work to translate the research outcomes from the consortium into commercial technologies,” says Mr Stuart.
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