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Welcome to the Otago Innovation Proof of Concept Competition 2017

From Brainwave to Business: Want your brilliant idea to have impact? Need $60,000 to make it happen?


The ‘Proof of Concept’  Competition has become an established feature of the University of Otago calendar, and is an opportunity for academics and Ph.D candidates to test their commercially prospective ideas in front of a mainly external panel of judges.

The winner will receive $60,000, but if previous years are any guide, many other entrants will end up engaging with Otago Innovation too. We know that the quality will be high because this is the 11th year of operation. The amount of deep intellectual property in the University continues to impress. The judges will see a lot more than one idea worth investing in. So we may as well be clear from the outset that it will not just be the winner who may benefit.

Over the past 11 years the competition has thrown up ideas ranging from relatively simple phone apps to more challenging human therapeutics. In more recent times entrants have also been offered a morning of coaching. This year a ‘Pitch then Lunch’ event will be freely available to everyone who has entered, or who is thinking about entering.

University of Otago Academics can apply on-line, just have your University log-in credentials handy and click the button below to start your application. If at any time you would like one of our Commercialisation Managers to work with you on your application, just ask, we are happy to help.

Closing date 5pm Monday 15 May, 2017.

Good Luck!

Pete Hodgson

Academic Staff Apply Now

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Are you a PhD Candidate at the University of Otago?

Great are also eligible to apply for the 2017 Proof of Concept Grant. Before you do it's a good idea to let your supervisor know what you'd like to do. You may like to ask them to be part of your application. Unfortunately, PhD candidates can't apply on-line, but just click the button below and download the word application form. 

If you are unsure what to do or you would like one of our Commercialisation Managers to assist you with your application please ask using our contact details.

PhD Candidate Apply Now

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Proof of Concept Competition 2017 - Meet the Experts

Discover the technology transfer experience of University of Otago staff in our video series, or meet the expert panel who will make the decision on who wins the $60,000. Finally, get an insight into the investment companies that will be present during judging. Just click the links below.  

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Video Series

The Proof of Concept Video Series has been prepared to give you insight into the world of technology transfer. Listen to three University of Otago staff members talk about their experience and how their work is making an impact through commercialisation.  

Dr. Gavin Clark, Director of the Research and Enterprise Office talks about an incident he experienced early in his career with a Senior Academic and discovered that it's not true that you can give away your work and expect the world to benefit. RELEASE DATE: April 24th, 2017 (duration 95s).

Dr. Stephen Sowerby shares the story of his parasite invention and describes the impact the patent he was granted has had on those suffering from internal parasites. Dr Sowerby recently joined Otago Innovation as a Commercialisation Manager after a distinguised career as an academic at the University of Otago. RELEASE DATE April 26th, 2017 (duration 58s).

Professor Stephen Duffull shares his commercialisation experience with Otago Innovation. Having been the Dean of the School of Pharmacy amongst other roles, Professor Duffull talks about his Simpharm Health Simulation product and the pathway it took him to get a licence deal. RELEASE DATE April 28th, 2017 (duration 65s)

Past Winners

See who the past winners are and their acomplishments.

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Meet the Expert Judging Panel

On Monday the 29th and Tuesday the 30th of May 2017, Otago Innovation brings together expert innovators and thought-leaders in the technology transfer space. Over the two days we will have an expert judging panel that represents precisely what makes the experience of commercialising University technologies so unique. Representing a cross section of University Commercialisation, Investment, Intellectual Property Management, Government and the Private Sector the panel comes from across New Zealand to meet with you and hear about your innovations. If your application is short-listed you will have a chance to pitch face-to-face to the panel and get expert feedback on your technology. It's unsual to find such a panel of experts all in the same room, so we hope it is of great benefit to you.

Dr Andrew Kelly
Executive Director and Co-Founder, BioPacific Partners

Andrew has a PhD with management training and is dedicated to bringing world-class innovation to address major unmet needs. Broadly experienced & networked across health, food & agriculture over a 40-year career spanning the spectrum from discovery science to commercial success.
Elizabeth Hopkins
ARA Institute of Canterbury

Elizabeth (Liz) trained at Oxford University and holds a First Class Honours degree in Pharmacology. She has spent over 20 years commercialising science and holds several Director positions, including a Ministerial appointment to ARA, a tertiary institute providing education throughout Canterbury and Waitaki regions. She has previously been Deputy Chair of NZBIO, a Council member for International accreditation New Zealand, including Innate Immunotherapeutics, an ASX listed company. She has held executive roles as CEO at Wool Equities/Keratec, CEO at Encoate (a start-up biotech), and Chief Development Officer at NeuronZ. Liz is currently engaged as Business Lead for the Endeavour Fund, New Zealand's largest annual investment in science and innovation.
Dr Kjesten Wiig
Director, Innovative Partnerships, Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment

With over over 16 years of experience working in the competitive US drug development industry, Kjesten began her career by working for Sention, a company that was spun out of Brown University on the basis of her post-doctoral research. She was also involved in intellectual property, angel and venture capital funding. Kjesten then went on to Galenea, a spin-out company from MIT, where she was the director of pre-clinical research. Kjesten managed major collaborations with universities, contract research organisations and pharmaceutical companies. She is now Director of Innovative Partnerships at MBIE.
Hon Pete Hodgson
CE Otago Innovation Ltd

Pete Hodgson was awarded a Bachelor’s degree in veterinary science from Massey university in 1973. Pete was elected as MP for Dunedin North in 1990 and was appointed to Cabinet in 1999. Pete has held a multitude of portfolios including Economic Development; Tertiary Education; Research, Science and Technology, Health, Transport, Commerce, Land Information, Statistics, Energy, Fisheries and Forestry. In 2012, Pete was appointed as CEO at Otago Innovation Limited.
Dr Gavin Clark
Director, Research and Enterprise

Gavin has a PhD in microbiology from the University of Surrey. He served studentships at Nestle (Switzerland) and Glaxo Group Research (UK), then worked in anti-infective discovery research at SmithKline Beecham Pharmaceuticals (1993-96). Since 1997 Gavin has specialised in knowledge transfer, serving a variety of roles in universities, government and spin-outs in NZ and in the UK.
Tomas Ribeiro
Registered Patent Attorney/Intellectual Property Manager, Otago Innovation Ltd

Tomas joined Otago Innovation Ltd on 3 April 2017. He is a registered patent attorney with many years’ experience particularly in Life Sciences. Immediately prior to joining Otago Innovation Ltd Tomas was a patent attorney with Balwins in Auckland and also has experience with large and small pharmaceutical companies and government entities in England and Scotland. Prior to that, Tomas started his career in IP as a patent examiner at the Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand.

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Meet the Investors

In previous Proof of Concept Competitions, Otago Innovation invited experience investors to take a look at new ideas early in their development. This year we are doing the same, but this year we have more investors than ever before attending the two days of judging. We have investors representing funds from both New Zealand and Australia. All Investors have signed Confidentiality Agreements, so your secrets are safe with us!

Brandon Capital Partners manages the MRCF Collaboration, providing seed and venture capital investment to support the development and international growth of Australian life science companies. We work collaboratively with entrepreneurs to demonstrate the benefit of their technology, thereby creating value for them, their teams and our investors.
Powerhouse was established in 2006 to commercialise scientific innovation developed at the universities of Lincoln and Canterbury along with the region’s other leading research-intensive institutions. In addition to investing directly in its own portfolio of companies, Powerhouse manages the co-investment of funds from external investors. Its principal Co-investors are NZVIF Investments Limited (a subsidiary of New Zealand Venture Investment Fund) and CRIS Limited (a subsidiary of Canterbury Development Corporation).
We seek technologies out of New Zealand publically funded institutes as well as the private sector.

We leverage our commercial backgrounds, our capital and networks and our links within Callaghan Innovation funding to provide early stage, high risk capital investment and incubation of technology to accelerate growth in a targeted manner. Growth is achieved through the utilisation of and co-operation with strong national and global networks of individuals, companies and research institutes and by utilising the internal capabilities within WNT Ventures.

Sparkbox is New Zealand’s leading early stage investor investing into high growth technology companies in the Asia Pacific region
The ICE Angels is a network of New Zealand's leading entrepreneurs, corporate executives, and professional investors that collaboratively invest in and support exceptional teams that are exploiting global opportunities.
Otago Angels facilitates links into the seed/early stage investment marketplace by bringing entrepreneurs/companies and investors together to build new business opportunities. Our focus is typically on early stage technology businesses that are highly scalable and capable of moving quickly into offshore markets.
The Kiwi Innovation Network (KiwiNet) is New Zealand’s network of public research organisations, working together to transform scientific discoveries into marketable products and services.

KiwiNet partners are Plant & Food Research, Callaghan Innovation, AgResearch, Otago Innovation, Landcare Research, Lincoln University, University of Canterbury, Viclink, WaikatoLink, AUT Enterprises Ltd, Cawthron Institute, Environmental Science & Research, NIWA, Scion, GNS Science and Malaghan Institute.
The MedTech CoRE is a Centre of Research Excellence funded by the Tertiary Education Commission and hosted by the University of Auckland.

It will use our world-class research capability to develop new technologies to improve hospital, community and home-based healthcare, for the benefit of all New Zealanders, and also nurture an enhanced MedTech business sector that contributes to the growth of the New Zealand economy.