27 May, 2022
Over the past two decades, the potential commercial benefits of technologies which emerge from scientific research have been widely recognized in New Zealand. The nature of this process has been increasingly scrutinized, and nuances have emerged such as recognition of the particular potential of research-intensive ‘deep’ tech. However, it is very tricky to describe exactly how research makes economic impact, as attempts to build impact frameworks invariably show. It is a non-linear process, with many interwoven pathways.
So how has the MacDiarmid Institute encouraged and achieved commercial success? Here we highlight our seed funding for commercialisation, a key practical step. For the last five years we have provided regular competitive funding rounds for projects with commercial potential, with four or five projects funded each year through a transparent internal process. A diverse range of activities may be funded, and the amount of funding for each project is small – perhaps enough to achieve a proof-of-principle result, to buy materials for a prototype, or to scope the IP landscape.
Critically, we support people and projects to get from A to B – i.e. to take practical steps that can make a difference. We fund activities that are too risky, too early-stage, too small and too urgent to be funded by others. We identify prospects at the ‘glint in the eye’ stage, often driven by the passion of our researchers.
The impact is clear. The development of Tasmanlon was supported by international travel funds; we enabled Kyle Webster, Litmaps co-founder, to develop his ideas as a PhD student; and we helped to fund Advemto’s prototype spectrometer. Projects are emerging regularly enough that we now have a tangible commercialisation ‘pipeline’.
Just as important are the indirect benefits. Many projects do not play out as expected, but they prepare our people for the next opportunity, or even serve to improve fundamental research impact. Likewise, projects which are unsuccessful in the competitive funding rounds provide information that helps the Commercialisation and Industry team to promote and support talent and technological prospects. We are striving to create a virtuous circle of talent identification, development, success, and institutional knowledge to help seed the next generation of start-ups.
You have just MADE MY YEAR!!!!!! That is AWESOME news!! [Thank you for] your continued enthusiasm and support for me and the project.A MACDIARMID INSTITUTE INVESTIGATOR FOLLOWING THE AWARD OF SEED FUNDING