Pitopito kōrero


University of ƵInventors’ Fund doubles to $40m

17 November 2022
A fund to accelerate the development of Waipapa Taumata Rau, University of Ƶstart-ups and research is doubling, in part to increase opportunities for Māori.

The University of ƵInventors’ Fund, which is managed by UniServices, the University’s research application and commercialisation company, is now $40 million.

The increased commitment is built upon the success of the open-ended and evergreen Inventors’ Fund, which aims to be the first investor into University spin-outs. Since its launch in 2016 as a $20 million fund, the Fund has invested in 43 start-ups with a collective market capitalisation of around $1 billion.

 Companies in its portfolio include Soul Machines, Alimetry, Orbis Diagnostics and Rain Therapeutics, the last of which is listed on the Nasdaq. 

“We are delighted to have more resources to drive an entrepreneurial ecosystem on campus and accelerate the commercialisation of research and ideas from the University,” said UniServices Executive Director of Commercialisation Will Charles. “We’re already an important driver of the tech ecosystem in Aotearoa New Zealand and now we can double our impact.”

The expansion of the fund will also support the development of Te Ao Māori entrepreneurship and commercialisation and support for Māori inventors, students and mātauranga Māori.

“We seek to collaborate with our Māori stakeholders to co-design a decision-making process for long-term capability building within the research commercialisation sector. This is necessary to authentically deliver on Te Tiriti outcomes that Vision Mātauranga seeks to achieve,” says UniServices Kaiārahi Tui Kaumoana.

photo (Will)
Will Charles
 “We are working towards the development of a tikanga-led Māori investment rōpu (committee) to future-proof lasting impacts by and for te ao Māori.” 

Tui Kaumoana, UniServices Kaiārahi

UniServices has also collaborated with mātauranga Māori rangatira (experts) to create policies for the protection of Māori intellectual property.

“We want to demonstrate that we as an organisation can respect mātauranga Māori, tangata whenua, Wai 262 and taonga species, and Te Tiriti O Waitangi appropriately,” said Kaumoana. “This policy work and the boost in funding together represent a significant opportunity to support Māori entrepreneurs and the development of the Māori entrepreneurial space.”

Image (Tui)
Tui Kaumoana

The Inventors’ Fund provides pre-seed and seed financing for start-ups led by University staff and students, especially those developing deep-tech businesses based on University research. The Fund typically syndicates with local and global venture funds, technology incubators and angel groups to work with their networks and build successful companies as fast as possible.

University-backed funds and specialist university commercialisation funds are becoming more common globally as universities seek to increase the impact of their research. These funds support academic and extracurricular programmes that universities are increasingly running to foster innovation and entrepreneurship.

“By acting as co-investors in start-up companies, universities create better alignment with the private sector, speed up commercialisation and provide greater incentives for university staff and students to consider commercialisation as a route to generating impact from their work,” says Charles.

UniServices is a major sponsor of the , run by the University’s . It also works closely with the Centre’s  and supports its  incubator for Velocity Challenge winners.