NZ universities a ‘hot-bed’ of entrepreneurial talent –

New Zealand universities and research institutions are a
‘hot-bed’ of entrepreneurial talent. Innovative
sci-tech ideas are coming through so fast that a student-led
investment committee programme is expanding nationally to
cope with demand.

The Momentum Programme was the first of
its kind in New Zealand when it was conceived and launched
with the formation of a student-led investment committee by
the University of Auckland’s UniServices through its Return On Science programme in June
2017. The Auckland committee has already reviewed 49
projects since its inception and Return On Science has
reviewed 480 projects in total. Momentum Programme
investment committees are accredited by the Ministry of
Business, Innovation, and Employment (MBIE) to make
investment decisions and recommendations for placement of
PreSeed Accelerator Funds.

Momentum Programme investment
committees also push for natural incorporation of Te Reo
Māori into each meeting. Karakia and Mihi are delivered at
the beginning and end of each investment committee meeting,
and the roles of Kaikarakia (karakia leader) and Kaimihi
(Mihi leader) are shared among committee members.

of Research, Science and Innovation, Hon Dr Megan Woods
officially launched the second Momentum investment committee
at a breakfast event attended by representatives from across
New Zealand’s innovation ecosystem in Wellington this
morning (Tuesday, December 11).

The new Momentum
committee, which is a partnership between Return On Science, KiwiNet and Viclink
(the commercialisation arm of Victoria University), will
recommend investment into promising university student
projects from the lower North Island from a $100,000 funding
pool provided by KiwiNet via MBIE’s PreSeed Accelerator
Fund. Prospective projects already reviewed range from Aria
Digital, an app which gives greater rostering flexibility
and control to staff and managers, to a platform for
bioconversion of organic waste by invertebrates into useable

The Momentum Programme will be rolled out
progressively across New Zealand.

The new committee
provides student entrepreneurs with expert advice and
direction to help commercialise their innovations. 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.

Young Kiwi business leaders such as
Veronica Stevenson of Humble
and Spindle Fibre Films, Ben Dunn of Swibo, and
Andrew Mayfield of Optimal Workshop have volunteered their
expertise to support the next generation of sci-tech
start-ups in Wellington.

Momentum in Auckland is chaired
by Dr Daniel Xu, chair and CEO of Spark 64
and a graduate of the Stanford Ignite entrepreneurship

“At UniServices and Return On Science we are
always looking for ways to improve what we do, both for our
own benefit and for the broader benefits we see for New
Zealand,” comments Auckland UniServices chief executive,
Dr Andy Shenk.

He explains the Momentum Programme was
born out of two, inter-connected ideas. The first was to
create a supportive environment for student entrepreneurs to
put forward their ideas in a forum that strongly tests the
business proposition without undermining or confronting the
team behind the business proposition. The second was to
provide real-world experiences and opportunities to the next
generation of New Zealand innovators, entrepreneurs and

“We could not be more pleased with how well
the members of both the inaugural Momentum investment
committees have brought these two ideas to life.”

Charles, Auckland UniServices executive director
Commercialisation, adds, “We are really excited about how
this programme is developing. The challenge of
commercialising science and research really becomes scalable
and transformational when an army of students, provided with
some tools, support and infrastructure, is unleashed. We
are already seeing the benefits of this in Auckland and are
very confident that it will very quickly become a great New

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