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Otago Innovation Proof of Concept Grant

The $100,000 Proof of Concept Grant competition is open

The annual Proof of Concept Grant competition is open for applications. As an established feature of the University of Otago’s calendar, the Otago Innovation POC Grant is in its fifteenth year.

It is an opportunity for Academics, Post-docs and PhD candidates to test their commercially prospective ideas in front of an expert panel of mainly external judges.

The winner of the Grant will receive $100,000 to help further validate their idea.

The judges will see a lot more than one idea worth investing in, and so it will not just be the winner who may benefit from submitting an application. In past years several entries have been taken forward with Otago Innovation.

The UoO is strongly embracing the idea of commercialisation as a valuable way to increase research impact.

A few years ago we instigated the idea of inviting potential investors/partners to the presentations and judging. People often tell us they wish to take a look at projects early. We reasoned that they (Investors) may as well take a look at new ideas out of Otago at the same time as we first do, and so each year since many people come and go throughout the two days of judging.

Over the last 15 years submissions have included ideas ranging from human therapeutics, biomarkers, software development to improved technology in household devices.

If you have a great idea, then feel free to contact any of our Commercialisation Managers. They will be happy to take a look.

Apply now

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Proof of Concept Competition 2021 - Meet the experts

Discover the technology transfer experience of University of Otago academics in our video series, or meet the 2021 expert panel of judges who makes the decision on who wins the $100,000. Finally, get an insight into the investment companies that will be present during the judging.


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 and their path to getting investor buy in. The series is available on the unviersity of Otago YouTube page.

Proof of Concept Video Series

Associate Professor Chris Pemberton (Medicine, UoO Christchurch) shares his story of a novel idea, securing Intellectual Property, getting investment and forming a company.

Dr Lyn Wise (Pharmacology & Toxicology, UoO) shares her story. The idea and how the path to getting investment was harder than she first thought. The market wasn’t ready.

Professor Alison Heather talks about her novel Androgen Product. A biotechnology product based on detecting chmicals that illicit that natural biological response to steriod hormones.

Professor Stephen Duffull from the School of Pharmacy chats about his Pharmacy Simulation Software that attracted US investment. 

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Meet the 2019 Expert Judging Panel - 2021 Judging Panel to be confirmed

On Wednesday 28th and Thursday 29th of July 2021, Otago Innovation brings together expert innovators in the technology transfer space.  Over the two days we will have an expert judging panel that represents precisely what makes the experience of commericalising 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 unusual to find such a panel of experts all in the same room, so we hope it is of great benefit to you.

Dr Andrew Kelley Andrew Kelly POC 2019

(Chair of POC Judging), Bio-Pacific Partners

Dr Andrew Kelly has a forty-year career in science and science commercialisation spanning health, food & agriculture. Dr Kelly was the co-founder of BioPacific Ventures, a $100 million life sciences specialist venture capital fund that operated in both New Zealand and Australia. More recently he co-founded BioPacific Partners which has built a centre of expertise in bridging local innovations into international markets via global health, food and agriculture companies.

Dr Kjesten Wiig

Director of Innovative Partnerships at the Ministry of Business, Innovation and EmploymentK Wiig POC 2019

Dr Kjesten Wiig is the Director of Innovative Partnerships at the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment. Innovative Partnerships works to enable international companies to connect, collaborate and invest in R&D in New Zealand through the creation of world-leading and enabling environments. While Innovative Partnerships can connect and facilitate across all areas of R&D in New Zealand, current areas of focus include space, unmanned aircraft for cargo and passengers, precision medicine/healthcare, robotics and gaming. In these areas, Innovative Partnerships works to create the types of conditions that enable mutually beneficial partnerships between New Zealand and international companies.

Kjesten was previously National Manager for Commercialisation at the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment. Prior to working for the Ministry, Kjesten was a senior drug-discovery scientist in the United States. She was Director of Neuropharmacology at Sention Inc, and Director of Pre-Clinical Research at Galena Corp.

Brian Russell

Brian Russell

Brian is a tech entrepreneur with over 25 years in product design and commercialisation. He started his career with large global corporates (Nokia-UK, Analog Devices-USA) then founded and ran Zephyr Technology Corp a US based medical device company for 14 years, raising capital in the US then successfully exiting to Covidien (now Medtronic). He has 22 patents in silicon chip design and physiological monitoring. He is now involved with various projects and on several boards.

Hon Pete Hodgson

Peter Hodgson

Pete Hodgson has a veterinary science degree (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 2014, Pete was appointed CEO at Otago Innovation Limited and resigned in 2018. He chairs Callaghan Innovation, and also chairs the Biotech and Life sciences Investment Committee for Return on Science.

Tomas Ribeiro

Tomas Ribeiro

Registered Patent Attorney/Intellectual Property Manager, Otago Innovation Ltd

Tomas joined Otago Innovation Limited 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

Otago Innovation may invite experienced investors to take a look at new ideas early in their development. Investors (from NZ and Australia) may be in attendance during the two days of judging, they have all signed Confidentiality Agreements, so your ideas are safe with us.