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Here in the the capital there are a whole bunch of really interesting initiatives coming to light in the area of commercialising science. The idea here is in part to prepare students for non-academic careers (where most of them end up), and to also encourage scientists at all levels to consider the commercial aspects of their research, which will hopefully lead to Paul Callaghan’s vision of a high-tech future NZ.

One of the most exciting of these is from the MacDiarmid Institute* where post-graduate students are being given the opportunity to work with CreativeHQ in Wellington to research the commercial potential of research performed by the Institute’s investigators. The program is split into two ‘phases’: the first focussed on market research, and the second a more in-depth market and business evaluation. The complete details are still becoming clear, but you can find the latest info here. On a personal note, it’s really encouraging to see** an innovation initiative with a long term vision (that’s sorely needed in science in general at the moment – but that’s a topic for another rant!), and I’m really excited to see where this leads and the cool business that grow out of this!

The second, that’s particularly relevant at the moment, is GrowWGTN’s “Innovating for Health” Challenge. Anxious to promote the development of biomedical research and companies in Wellington (after all Fisher and Paykel Healthcare sits at the very top of the TIN100 so there are far worse industries to promote!), the challenge is currently seeking entries for any commercially applicable technologies in this area with a $50,000 investment for the winning entry. Entries close on the 30th March 2012, and take only 100 words for this initial evaluation stage. Submissions will receive feedback from experts on IP, connections with entrepreneurs and investors and more from the GrowWGTN team, and can be submitted online.

Looking to the future, with initiatives like these (and for more keep an eye on future posts) it’s hard not to be positive about the future of science in NZ, even with such large possible changes in the pipeline what with MSI’s inclusion into the super-ministry. Yet all these initiatives will fall flat without participation – so if you’ve got a great idea, whether a student, scientist, engineer or anything else in between – all I can say is get involved!

* noted conflict of interest – I am a PhD student with the MacDiarmid Institute and have been lucky enough to have received a scholarship from them to enable me to complete my PhD.

** from the outside – whilst I’m part of MacDiarmid I’m not part of this specific initiative. Yet.