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Posts Tagged university

Right…a way to crunch a business model from good research ideas Peter Kerr Jun 17

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Here’s an interesting innovation move, one to be applauded.

It’s Startup Weekend Science and Research, in Wellington at Creative HQ from Friday July 3 to Sunday 5.

Interesting because its the first time a non-digital (as such) Startup Weekend event’s been done in NZ (France has beaten us to the draw). Most startup weekends like this are around apps or web-based functions – something that requires developers and designers.

This 54-hour marathon though has tangible products, something physical you can touch as the start point. It is open to all research-based ideas (the criteria for this is at the end of the blog).

SWRsch is to be applauded because it is:

  1. Delving into the unknown – the organisers aren’t quite sure how many people will attend
  2. Likely to lever off some of our country’s other strengths, be they our biological, manufacturing or other service industry areas of expertise
  3. (People still have to eat, move, experience, live and play in the real, physical world. Solving problems in these areas is just as important as in the online space)

It is also a good intiative because it potentially combines the ethos of startup weekends: speed to market, pace of (software) development, minimum viable product and the like; with what will often be a protectable intellectual property position from the research.

Finally, it could be quite exciting to see teams looking to develop deep technology on the Friday night, and frantically looking for someone such as a chemist or electrical engineer or food technologist, rather than desperately trying to find a coder/programmer.

The organisers are really wanting to attact PhD students – people with ideas, people who don’t necessarily want an academic/researcher role in their next career phase – to be part of the weekend.

To state the obvious, getting them along, en mass as a way of acquiring a range of skills over and above what they’ve learned doing their doctorate, is going to be the trick.

Here’s what the weekend organisers are looking for.

What is a research-based idea?

  • To be a good fit for #SWRsch your idea should meet (or come close to) the following criteria:
  • It will be based on a defined body of research e.g. a masters/doctorate project, market research, socio-economic research, data project, etc
  • It will require a degree of research and development to be a marketable product i.e. it is not already at the product stage (you may or may not have done a portion of this R&D already)
  • It will not have been widely commercialised yet i.e. you may have explored one market but think there is more potential to be realised yet

A picture’s worth a thousand words…or not in our case Peter Kerr Dec 16

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I’m a sucker for a good diagram – a picture’s worth a thousand words and all that jazz.

So I thought I’d see what, if anything, came up in a search about New Zealand’s science and innovation system; diagram-wise.

The image below, taken as a screenshot, is what Google came up with when I searched under ‘science and innovation system, New Zealand’ (selecting the Google images icon as well)

S & I system NZ, Google images

Google screenshot, science and innovation system, New Zealand

To state the obvious – nothing terribly much here to explain what goes on in godzone, not a hint of a plan you’d have to say.

Well, what about a comparison with other countries?

So, I did the same for Denmark, a country that we like to compare ourselves to, frequently.

This is it here.

Google screenshot, science and innovation system, Denmark

Google screenshot, science and innovation system, Denmark

Again, to state the obvious – much more illustrative, many more models and examples of how Denmark’s ideas to products continuum hangs together.

What the heck, decided to do the same for Fiji (a near neighbour we’d possibly like to think we have a bit of a science and innovation lead over).

Here’s their Google search result.

Google screenshot, science and innovation system, Fiji

Google screenshot, science and innovation system, Fiji

Now, there may be some peculiarity in Google algorithm for my searches. (Though I had some of my non-sciencey colleagues search too, and they came up with something very similar).

And, it could be an unfair search term for NZ Inc

Or, it could be that there is no plan.

It could be that we’re doing lots of science, lots of innovation, lots of commercialisation – but it is all adhoc and uncoordinated, relying on luck and synchronicity and who the heck knows what.

I’m also hoping I’m wrong.

If anyone’s seen a plan, please point it out.

It would be a kind of relief to see one.


Bringing Biggs to the party an inspired move Peter Kerr Oct 29

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The appointment of Peter Biggs as inaugural chairman of the new Wellington Regional Economic Development Agency, is an inspired bargain.

I briefly dealt with ‘Biggsy’ as he is commonly known, in a former life.

My observation is that he’s great at doing deals and, even more importantly, making things happen.

That, in Wellington’s case as all and sundry circle but never get any traction around the idea that ‘we need to do something’, is why he will be great in this position.

As a colleague commented once, the job of a chairman is to get down and dirty and be fighting in the trenches.

Arguably, one of Biggs’ main attributes is this figurative hand-t0-hand combat skills that he possesses.

The former Wellingtonian of the Year (2003) is extremely well connected and networked at all levels across government and industry.

One of his mottos (according to one of his former colleagues), once a decision has been made is to “let’s pile into this guys”.

This is exactly what our city and wider province needs – essentially permission to execute something, and a bit of a blow-torch up everyones’ collective rears to make it happen.

As a motivator, a string-pullerer, loosener of wallets and most importantly of all, an enthusiast for a good idea that needs backing, having Peter Biggs onboard is fantastic.

So, welcome back from eight years in Melbourne Peter.

There’s plenty of things we could be doing here, plenty of ideas, some of them potentially big.

We look forward to you helping to kick them off in the new agency.

Collectively (adding to the WREDA’s four C’s – cohesion, confidence, conversion and communication) there’s a region that’s really behind you.

Note: WREDA’s so new, I couldn’t find an URL that directly relates to it. The closest is here.

Note: Feel free to also check out Punchline – Messages that Matter, my new business, based on a Secret SAUCE


Name change signals expanded ability for patent owners to leverage their IP Peter Kerr Oct 01

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A name’s an important clue to how a company represents itself to the world.

So, the change to IP Nexus from IP Exchange represents a business and philosophical change for the Hong Kong based but globally oriented company.

Its founder and CEO Hidero (Hidi) Niioka got hold of sticK to remind New Zealand SME owners of the marketplace which aims to connect patent owners with others looking for the solutions the patents’ offer.

The Nexus (rather than Exchange) term seems appropriate for an organisations that’s grown considerably since first mentioned in stick in June 2012. (One definition of nexus is a connection or series of connections linking two or more things).

For startups, inventors, universities, SMEs and other entrepreneurs looking to use their IP beyond New Zealand’s shores, the continuing development of IP Nexus offers considerable advantages says Hidi.

Part of this built on three (new) pillars, compared to IP Exchange.

  • Ask an expert – post questions and get expert answers for free

  • Services marketplace – post jobs nad gets experts’ bids

  • Directory – search for specific technical or regional expertise worldwide

Hidi points out that while the NZ government (and many others around the world) promotes innovation, accelerator platforms and the like, there is a need to make related advice and services more accessible for those launching new ventures, especially those who are looking outside their home markets.

The goal of our new services is to make it easier for inventors, startups and other small businesses to develop their ventures and protect and monetise their IP,” says Hidi.

Signing up is free, so if you are just looking for basis advice, it won’t cost you anything. On the other hand, if you need specialised technical or cross-border expertise, you connect easily to the relevant professionals through a simple search.”

IP Nexus’ experts are able to answer some questions for free, and prices for services are negotiable beyond that. It has over 200 IP experts onboard representing a broad base of global and technical expertise from New Zealand and Australia, to Silicon Valley, Europe, Japan and China. It also has over 61,000 patents and other IP available for search.

Under the company’s model, patent owners can upload as many patents as they want for free for marketing to potential commercialisation agents such as IP brokers, law firms and interested technology companies.

Patent owners only pay a success fee of 4-12% is there successful sale or licence of the patent.

As is often pointed out about NZ patent holders, Kiwi businesses often completely ignore the option of selling or licensing patents overseas.

Given that most NZ inventions will also be applicable in other countries, IP Nexus is an idea worth exploring while protecting the patent. Check it out at ipnexus.com


Name change signals expanded ability for patent owners to leverage their IP Peter Kerr Oct 01

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A name’s an important clue to how a company represents itself to the world.

So, the change to IP Nexus from IP Exchange represents a business and philosophical change for the Hong Kong based but globally oriented company.

Its founder and CEO Hidero (Hidi) Niioka got hold of sticK to remind New Zealand SME owners of the marketplace which aims to connect patent owners with others looking for the solutions the patents’ offer.

The Nexus (rather than Exchange) term seems appropriate for an organisations that’s grown considerably since first mentioned in stick in June 2012. (One definition of nexus is a connection or series of connections linking two or more things).

For startups, inventors, universities, SMEs and other entrepreneurs looking to use their IP beyond New Zealand’s shores, the continuing development of IP Nexus offers considerable advantages says Hidi.

Part of this built on three (new) pillars, compared to IP Exchange.

  • Ask an expert – post questions and get expert answers for free

  • Services marketplace – post jobs nad gets experts’ bids

  • Directory – search for specific technical or regional expertise worldwide

Hidi points out that while the NZ government (and many others around the world) promotes innovation, accelerator platforms and the like, there is a need to make related advice and services more accessible for those launching new ventures, especially those who are looking outside their home markets.

The goal of our new services is to make it easier for inventors, startups and other small businesses to develop their ventures and protect and monetise their IP,” says Hidi.

Signing up is free, so if you are just looking for basis advice, it won’t cost you anything. On the other hand, if you need specialised technical or cross-border expertise, you connect easily to the relevant professionals through a simple search.”

IP Nexus’ experts are able to answer some questions for free, and prices for services are negotiable beyond that. It has over 200 IP experts onboard representing a broad base of global and technical expertise from New Zealand and Australia, to Silicon Valley, Europe, Japan and China. It also has over 61,000 patents and other IP available for search.

Under the company’s model, patent owners can upload as many patents as they want for free for marketing to potential commercialisation agents such as IP brokers, law firms and interested technology companies.

Patent owners only pay a success fee of 4-12% is there successful sale or licence of the patent.

As is often pointed out about NZ patent holders, Kiwi businesses often completely ignore the option of selling or licensing patents overseas.

Given that most NZ inventions will also be applicable in other countries, IP Nexus is an idea worth exploring while protecting the patent. Check it out at ipnexus.com


How long will it take for the Wynyard Precinct to hit its straps? Peter Kerr Mar 11

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Well, let’s see how Auckland’s new Innovation Precinct, Wynyard Precinct (it appears to have at least a couple of names) get’s up and going.

It has been one of those long time in coming projects – and now we’ll see if the deliberate talk of setting up an innovation hub to attempt to be a baby Silicon Valley can be pulled off.

Making it a digital and ICT concentration of goodness may work, but then it may not.

I don’t know enough of the psychology, come physical location, come proximinity to university relationships to guage this one yet.

That, and whether the office/laboratory rent will be in the right comfort zone for budding entrepreneurs, who, even though they’d like to be situated around other smart people, may prefer the rock-bottom payments due when operating out of garage.

With (well at least according to this NZ Herald story) hotbeds of innovation already taking place in Albany, Takapuna, Henderson, Parnell, East Tamaki and further south around Auckland Airport, how and where Wynyard fits in will be interesting over the next few years.

Wynyard’s got some solid operators, with a track record in start-ups through having The Icehouse and Auckland’s BizDojo as people to meet, greet and settle potential new firms. There’s nothing like a bit of experience and competence to help fledgling founders.

How Ateed (the Auckland development agency) and Callaghan Innovation bring the FoodBowl into the mix will be another challenge.

The Manukau-based Food Innovation Centre has had considerable investment put into it by central government.

While these ventures always take a long time (if ever) to pay themselves back, the FoodBowl’s been very much in that territory apparently.

But, that’s not to belittle Wynyard. Onwards, and hopefully upwards.

Mind you, given that it will take at least a couple of years for anything meaningful to happen, by then we’ll have forgotten what the original purpose of Wynyard was anyway.


Opportunity lost? – a case study, Dr Werner Komposi Peter Kerr Feb 11

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By guest blogger: Mike Doig

Dr. Ingr Werner Komposi came to New Zealand about 12 years ago to take up employment at one of our universities. He was educated in Germany and while there divided his time between appointments in academia and industry.

Dr Komposi is married with two children, and the family has settled down well. They enjoy skiing and fishing, and appreciate New Zealand’s quiet and unspoiled natural environment.

Dr Komposi is a talented mechanical engineer who has specialised in the design of small diesel engines. He believes the diesel engine has unrealised potential and has a vision of designing an engine which could become a standard power plant in light aircraft.

He has prospered at his university. He has been promoted to associate professor, has published profusely, and was awarded an ‘A’ grade in the recent PBRF round.

He is a keen supporter of postgraduate research, and has supervised as many as six PhD students at the same time. Because of this he has been relieved of undergraduate teaching duties.

In 2008 Dr Komposi was awarded the Silver Medal for Innovation from the International Diesel Technology Association.

The university has been generous in its financial support of Dr Komposi’s research team. Dr Komposi has been able to attend numerous scientific and engineering conferences overseas, and this has enabled him to visit his family on a regular basis. His parents are now rather elderly.

He has not been able to obtain funding for his research from firms in New Zealand, nor from government sources.

However, as a result of his forays overseas, he has entered into a partnership arrangement with a large engineering concern in Korea, which has agreed to fund some of his work. It is thought that this arrangement grants certain intellectual property rights to the Koreans, but the university has no record of this.

Of his PhD students, all but two have found positions in overseas engineering companies.

One of the two others has taken up a post-doctoral fellowship in the university, and the other has entered the priesthood.

An MBA student at the same university became interested in the work of Dr Komposi and took as the subject of his final year project ‘A study of the feasibility of manufacturing diesel engines in New Zealand’.

It was a fine piece of work which earned the student an A+ grade. His finding was that while it would be technically possible to make diesels here, it would be hopelessly uneconomic and no sane firm or investor would be interested. Nearly all the most intricate componentry would have to be imported.

The MBA dissertation was embargoed for two years because it contained sensitive commercial information given by local engineering firms.

It has now been lodged in the university library but to date it has not been accessed, either in hard copy or online.

A seminar was organised by the university recently to celebrate the work of its most prominent researchers. Dr Komposi gave a stunning presentation of his diesel engine work, and two of his students gave a live demonstration of the latest design, which was surprisingly quiet.

A journalist in the audience was moved to ask how much support the work had received from the New Zealand taxpayer, and when a return might be expected.

Dr Komposi firstly replied that he didn’t keep very accurate records, but thought costs by now must be well over $1 million.

In considering the second part of the question, he first observed that the question wasn’t a very valid one.

‘Knowledge moves forward in unpredictable ways, and on a global scale’, he said. ‘We all benefit from the work of others.’

Dr Komposi and his family have now returned to Germany, where his elder son has enrolled at the University of Tubingen.


Chipping in for multicore champion – let’s get parallel programming Peter Kerr Feb 04

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 You’ve got to admire someone who has a vision, almost as much as someone who is prepared to use the word vision.

So here’s a plug for Nicolas Erdody, founder of Open Parallel, and more importantly the organiser of Multicore World Conference 2014.

Erdody’s well aware that computer hardware power – where many cores (essentially single computers) can be placed on a single chip – has advanced beyond the IT industry’s ability to program for such beasts.

In this light, he’s put together for a third consecutive year a two-day conference at Auckland’s AUT on 25 and 26 February that brings together many global experts on dealing with this challenge.

Naturally Erdody’s keen to get as many attendees to the world-class event as possible (just under $1000 for full attendance, including a conference dinner on the Tuesday night).

Equally he wants NZ Inc to wake up to the realisation that there’s a real opportunity for our collective psyche and IT infrastructure to ride the just-beginning wave of programming possibilities that exist around multicore coding.

Erdody’s passionate that a concentrated effort of NZ government, commercial interest, engineering and developers’ communities, R&D and academia could provide programming solutions for multicore.

Given that multicore’s parallel coding requirements are weightless, location agnostic, and an increasing problem needing to be solved, Erdody’s dead right about the opportunity.

Rounding up the collective cats to bring it to fruition, even in a country as only two degrees of separation connected as New Zealand has been an ongoing challenge for the Oamaru (yes, you read that right), former Uruguayan businessman.

However he must be doing something right. After two years staging the event in Wellington, for the third conference Erdody has pulled Auckland’s AUT (Auckland University of Technology) onboard as one of the sponsors, along with well-known open source software promoters Catalyst IT, SKA Organisation (from the UK) Cray Inc, NesI, NZOSS, MBIE, ThinkAgency, Scoop Media and NVIDIA.

There are more than 20 speakers at MCW2014, with over two-thirds of them from overseas.

Erdody would love to see as many IT managers, CTOs and CIOs, engineers and developers as possible at what is cutting edge thinking – and what is sure to be an inside look at where computing is heading in the immediate and not-to-distant future.

In a sense (though Erdody’s too polite to say this), anyone connected with the IT industry at even a slightly senior level would be a fool not to be there – if not for the speaker quality, then for the informal conversations which alone can often be worth the price of admission.

Additionally, on February 27 & 28, Erdody’s helped organise in association with AUT’s Dr. Andrew Ensor and Prof. Sergei Gulyaev a Square Kilometer Array (Computing for SKA) Workshop – the global initiative, using radio telescopes based in South Africa, Australia and New Zealand to better map the universe.  (New Zealand is a full member of the 10 country SKA Organisation, which is a cornerstone sponsor of MCW2014).

(Incidentially, Open Parallel is the only New Zealand company that leads a work package of, admittedly a small part of a huge international effort, the design phase of the SKA. Open Parallel’s contribution to the SKA isn’t funded by the NZ government, and, as a result, Erdody would appreciate international sponsorship or donors for the effort).

Finally, and getting back to the ‘vision thing’ (as accidentally coined by George Bush), Erdody deserves recognition for hammering away at an opportunity for New Zealand.

Our country could position itself as a centre of excellence and make lots of money by solving multicore programming problems for others.

Who is up for the discussion, the challenge and the prospect?

(In particular, government-type advisers looking for the next big thing, are you listening?)


KiwiNet and the sell of commercialisation Peter Kerr Nov 26

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There’s always something to learn at commercialisation workshops.

KiwiNet, the group-hug of university and CRI commercialisation units held a Wellington-based forum around understanding customers.

So, here’s couple of interesting bits and pieces from the day – of which I was only able to attend some of, so this is in no way representative.

KiwiNet chair Ruth Richardson, also sits on the KiwiNet Pre-Seed Accelerator Fund (PSAF) investment committee that evaluates ideas put forward by its members – before such ideas are put forward to MBIE.

She gave some investment criteria tips for the ±30 attendees.

  • The ‘sell’ usually comes in your answers to the question and answers, not in the initial presentation
  • Show your enthusiasm
  • Bring your principal investigator if you can
  • Bringing a representative from the business partner can work very well
  • External expert advice can add substantial value
  • Demonstrate value right along the supply chain
  • If you’re unsure, try a project review
  • Listen to the committee and address the concerns
  • It’s OK to fail

Magritek CEO Andrew Coy (risking, he reckons the wrath of his work colleagues) considers that the drivers of a successful academic scientist and commercialiser (who could be a scientist) are different.

Difference/orientation between an academic scientist and a commercial scientist

Science Commercial
Ideas Execution
Best Good enough
Right Successful
Thorough Fast
Publish Secret
Individual Team
Funding Investment and return
Wide ranging Focus
Happy PBRF Happy customer

Coy commented that sometimes universities get very tied up in trying to value intellectual property, before any money has been made from a possible venture.

“Share in the future value, not today’s costs,” he says.

He gave the example of Stanford University. The university owns any IP that comes from its scientists while they’re working there – but the university then licences it back to the inventor for a dollar. They then have a huge incentive to make the technology worth something.

Finally, Coy says rather than attempting to tie up any intellectual property in patents and the like, “the best IP is about making it work in reality,” he says.

“You want something that is hard to do, and you have to do lots of little things right to achieve it.”


You’ve got to kiss a lot of frogs – or, how to spot a good idea Peter Kerr Sep 17

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Engineer, entrepreneur, venture capitalist, and raconteur Neville Jordan reckons he needs to kiss about 99 frogs before he’ll find an idea worth investing in.

Speaking as the IPENZ 2013 William Pickering Fellow at a Wellington lecture (part of the body’s national tour), Jordan told about 300 people it takes much research, talking to overseas people, and being introduced to a lot of ideas to find one business/startup that will potentially turn into a handsome prince (to extend the analogy; though he didn’t use this term himself).

Neville Jordan


The Sept. 12 presentation by Jordan, executive chairman of private equity investor Endeavour Capital, was on the topic, ‘How an engineer spots new technology and creates a billion dollar business.’

From his Petone beginnings, including trying to make an atomic bomb (but, as a 13 year old, wasn’t able to source uranium at his local pharmacy!), Jordan briefly outlined how the pharmacist later skewed his interest towards electronics.

Years later he pioneered the use of microwave technologies in New Zealand, floated MAS Tech on the NASDAQ, came away from a subsequent buyout of that company by larger American interests, and with a war chest of funds set up vehicles to invest in other good Kiwi ideas.

Hence the kissing many frogs correlation.

Having been successful with some investments, and less so with others (“it’s not failure, it’s a lack of success” he said in reply to a question), Jordan pondered where some of the next ‘Big Things’ may be coming from.

As an investor, he’s mindful that some technologies can pull society apart.

“How do we impact on the social fabric so we create better societies, and not cripple it in the process,” he posited?

Without giving specific answers, Jordan speculated that advances will be made in:

A fusion of electronics and healthcare (including and around)

  • Chronic pain relief
  • Hearing
  •  Blindness

A rise of new computational abilities

  • Nano-level circuits
  • Neural/cognitive systems

3D printing at home

He also gave huge credence to new education entities which are set to greatly disrupt university (including New Zealand) and other providers’ offerings.

These include Laureate Universities (which have just received $200m in funding from the World Bank, and the Khan Academy (which has over 3,500 courses on offer).

Many people have heard of MOOCs (massive online open course) which currently have three million students in 220 courses.

Jordan says education that is accessible through and because of the internet will profoundly change society – though he, like others cannot possibly envisage what that will be.


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