Staff Profile

Meet Tori McNoe, Poutaki Hononga – Commercialisation

05 December 2022
Tori McNoe (Te Arawa, Ngāti Tahu/Ngāti Whaoa, Ngāti Raukawa) is UniServices’ Poutaki Hononga, Commercialisation Development Lead.

What does your job involve?

My role is to identify where the commercialisation of University research overlaps with Māori values or interests and improve UniServices’ ability to respond to these links.

My job title, Poutaki Hononga, means ‘relationship facilitator’ and I work to build and strengthen relationships within the Māori commercialisation process at UniServices.

For example, we might have a particular piece of technology that has some affinity to Māori, whether that be Māori team members, a social goal to benefit Māori or Māori investment. My role is to identify these connections and build team capability to consider them appropriately.

I am currently building questions into our idea disclosure ‘triage’ process that ask researchers to consider a Te Ao Māori perspective, particularly how the commercialisation of their idea might affect Māori people.

Network building, to future-proof this approach, is also an important part of my role. Developing a bank of capable stakeholders will ensure there is more than one person to turn to for advice about Māori commercialisation.


Tell us a little about your background and how you ended up in this role?

I grew up in Temuka, a small town in the South Island. My dad is Māori and my mum is Pākehā – from Liverpool. I affectionately say the food that represents my family is fry bread, because it’s a cross between hangi and scones – we grew up on quite a lot of it! My dad became disconnected from Te Ao Māori at a young age after his parents died and whānau became involved with gangs. We didn’t grow up with the language but other cultural aspects were part of my early life and I’m grateful to Dad for sharing that part of his history. It made me interested in the macro social factors that enable gang and other criminal affiliations to become negatively intwined with a person’s perception of their own culture.

I wanted to be a lawyer and started out at the University of Canterbury with this goal but quickly decided the Bachelor of Criminal Justice was much more interesting, because I’m fascinated by social impact. My other degree is a Bachelor of Arts in sociology and psychology. In 2020, my final year at university, I was also president of the students’ association and developed a love of advocacy and the larger decision-making processes of universities. I also chaired the Canterbury Investment Committee and that’s how my current job came about. I had bigger plans for rangatahi Māori to be more involved by creating strategic alliances, but I didn’t have time to do all that while I was running it. That’s when Will Charles (UniServices executive director – commercialisation) said, “What if we gave you a job doing that?” and I ended up co-writing my own job description.

“My role is to identify where the commercialisation of University research overlaps with Māori values or interests and improve UniServices’ ability to respond to these links.”
Tori Mcnoe, Poutaki Hononga | Commercialisation Development Lead

What motivates you to do what you do?

Through my mahi I’ve been given an opportunity to connect with my own whakapapa and develop its legacy. In my studies, I’d always looked at Māori communities as being in deficit, whereas this role gives me much more hope. It’s a space where Māori can develop their own futures and nurturing the aspirations of rangatahi remains very important to me.

What’s the most challenging thing about this role and how do you tackle it?

There are many challenges, but I love that. Bringing a Māori lens to an organisation while learning about that aspect of myself at the same time is a balancing act and a challenge, because I want to do it justice. I once heard it described as ‘edge walking’ – at the moment we are walking a tightrope but in time we will have a hallway where we can open and shut doors as needed.

Where is UniServices at on its bicultural journey and what’s ahead?

My job evolved out of this journey and our biggest challenge is being comfortable with being uncomfortable for a while as we figure out a new narrative, including the potential gifting of a Māori name for UniServices. The biggest win to come from sitting with this discomfort will be having an organisation that knows its history and knows where it is going from a strategic level right down to why an individual might choose to work here and the particular part of the story they can relate to.

When you’re not working, what would we find you doing?

I love travelling when I get the opportunity. I’m also involved with quite a few governance roles outside of work, on investment committees like Soul Capital, Science Alive and the ƵClimate Festival. I’m also chair of the board of trustees at my niece’s kura (school).