Minister of Research, Science and Innovation, the Hon Dr Megan Woods, officially launched a programme aimed at funding and supporting student entrepreneurs—known as Momentum—during a breakfast event at Parliament on the 11th of December.
The new Wellington Momentum investment committee—which is a partnership between Return On Science, KiwiNet and Viclink—recommends investment into promising sci-tech projects being developed by university students from the lower North Island, using a $100,000 funding pool provided by KiwiNet (via the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s Pre-Seed Accelerator Fund).
In addition to funding, the student-led committee—which also includes experienced investors and entrepreneurs—provides entrepreneurial students with expert advice and direction to help commercialise their innovations. “The aim is to help them ensure their intellectual property (IP) and technology projects get to market faster and with a greater chance of success,” explains Emily Sullivan, Viclink’s Student Entrepreneurship Manager. “The response from Viclink’s wider networks has been really exciting, and we have managed to pull a diverse, talented group of people together to assess the projects.”
Young Kiwi business leaders such as Veronica Stevenson of Humble Bee and Spindle Fibre Films, Ben Dunn of Swibo, and Andrew Mayfield of Optimal Workshop are among those volunteering their expertise to the new Momentum committee, in a bid to support the next generation of start-ups in Wellington and the lower half of the North Island.
The Momentum programme was the first of its kind in New Zealand when it was conceived and launched by the University of Auckland’s UniServices through its Return On Science programme in June 2017. Since then, the Auckland Momentum investment committee has held 15 meetings and considered 49 different investment opportunities, including six projects from outside the University of Auckland, namely Auckland University of Technology, University of Otago, Victoria University of Wellington, KiwiNet, and Massey University.
The programme recently expanded into Wellington to meet the demand for its services, and tap into the large source of innovative sci-tech ideas being developed by university students around the country.
The Minister says that it’s the entrepreneurial and creative ambitions of New Zealand’s young people that will drive the country’s innovation ecosystem, and create a productive, sustainable and resilient economy for all.
“Knowledge-intensive new businesses are vital to New Zealand’s future growth,” she says. “The work that Momentum and its collaborators do to provide young innovators and entrepreneurs with access to expert advice, support and entrepreneurial networks is not only beneficial for their current projects, but for their capability development, future projects and future work.”
Dr James Hutchinson, KiwiNet’s Chief Executive Officer agrees wholeheartedly, saying that in order to thrive—and not just survive—in an uncertain future, students are going to need more than just a traditional education.
“We are rapidly charging into a future where we don't even know what jobs will look like,” he says. “Our young people will need transferrable skills like entrepreneurship, problem-solving and resourcefulness. Building entrepreneurship is key to unlocking not only their potential, but our potential as a nation.”
The breakfast launch was followed with a Wellington Momentum investment committee meeting at Te Papa, where three student projects were considered.
Zingiber, a new type of antibiotic being developed to treat E. coli-induced urinary tract infections—the most common bacterial infection in the world, but one which is becoming increasingly difficult to treat due to antibiotic resistance.
Dyslexia Potential, a company founded by a dyslexic student in 2012 (at the age of 13), that is now developing two core products: a 10-week hands-on programme for kids aged seven to 13, and a programme for 10 to 12 year olds, aimed at developing creativity and critical thinking, and helping kids to discover their natural strengths, talents, and gifts.
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