A boost for innovation

Wellington has a growing reputation as a start-up city, and a new partnership between Victoria University of Wellington’s commercialisation arm, Viclink, and New Zealand financial services company Booster will take this even further.

Dozens of colourful spikey spheres orbiting an outstretch human hand.

The New Zealand Innovation Booster is a game-changing partnership that will see Booster—whose executive chairman Paul Foley and managing director Allan Yeo are both alumni— invest at least $10 million in start-up businesses spun out of the University’s world-leading research.

It is the first time a New Zealand financial institution has joined forces with a university to invest in its start-ups.

Launching the partnership, Minister of Finance Grant Robertson praised Viclink and Booster for their leadership in “unlocking capital we need if we’re going to achieve the goals we have around research and innovation.”

He said the initiative “provides a massive opportunity not only for the researchers at Victoria University of Wellington but also for the wider New Zealand economy to be able to lift the value of what we do and develop partnerships that will sustain the standard of living New Zealanders want.”

Under the partnership, Booster will invest a minimum of $2 million a year for five years in a portfolio of new start-ups.

The partnership reflects the shared commitment of the University and Booster to encourage entrepreneurialism and economic growth in New Zealand, says Vice-Chancellor Professor Grant Guilford.

“Booster is a Wellington-based company and this investment will increase the chance the start-ups will take root in a city we are both proud to be part of,” he says.

Dr Anne Barnett, chief executive officer of Viclink, explains that the money the partnership injects will give the startups more security in their cash-hungry formative years.

“Having the support of Booster dramatically improves the chances of the start-ups growing faster, making them more attractive to other investors.”

For Booster, the partnership reflects its commitment to New Zealand by helping innovative ideas become productive businesses.

“Commercialisation of research has long been seen as an opportunity to enhance the contribution of our universities to New Zealand,” says Allan Yeo. “Historically, this financing has relied on angel funding or venture capital, which means opportunities to date have not only been hard to come by, but future commercialisation and growth benefits leave New Zealand.

“We are excited to be an integral part in growing these innovative Kiwi ideas for the future benefit of New Zealand.”

Viclink currently has equity in nearly 20 start-ups based on university research, including Avalia Immunotherapies, scientific instruments company Magritek, and medical diagnostics company Ferranova.

It aims to double that portfolio within the next decade.