David is the business writer for the Bay of Plenty Times and Rotorua Daily Post.

Bay of Plenty incubator aiming for seven portfolio companies by year end

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WNT Ventures chief executive Carl Jones. Photo/File
WNT Ventures chief executive Carl Jones. Photo/File

Callaghan Innovation has confirmed two years of additional funding for Bay of Plenty technology incubator WNT Ventures, and for two other incubators that won funding under a three-year pilot programme that got underway in 2014.

WNT Ventures was the only regional company of the three funded when the programme was initiated by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE). The other two - Astrolab and Powerhouse Ventures - are headquartered in Auckland and Christchurch respectively.

"The minister is comfortable about where it's been going and the progress, and pleased with everything that's happening and is happy to extend it to the full five years," said WNT Ventures chief executive Carl Jones.

MBIE has extended funding until June 2019 and another review is expected in 2018, at which point the hope was that it would be rolled over for a longer period, he said.

The technology incubator programme allows potentially high-growth, early-stage firms to access repayable grants. WNT Ventures establishes and nurtures businesses based on intellectual property and novel technologies primarily sourced from New Zealand, publicly funded research organisations such as universities and Crown Research Institutes, as well as the public sector.

"High-growth startups are key contributors to the Government's goals for growing business R&D and exports and making the most of the digital economy," said Minister of Business, Innovation and Employment Steven Joyce.

Bill Murphy, executive director of Bay of Plenty early-stage funding group Enterprise Angels, said it was very important that the Government was making a long-term commitment to New Zealand's early-stage and innovation sector.

"Returns in the sector take time and it's really good to see Government extending its commitment to this very crucial part of the market," he said.

"It's about transferring technology out of CRIs and universities and its challenging. The Government spends so much money funding R&D in those organisations that it makes sense to try and get something back out of it."

WNT Ventures currently has four portfolio companies being incubated.

They are:

• Mastaplex, which aims to develop and commercialise a point-of-care bovine mastitis diagnostic test.

• Onesixone, the developer of a software-hardware solution called Soundswitch, which bridges the gap between industry standard DJ software and entertainment lighting systems.

• Nyriad, which is developing a new generation of compression technologies designed for modern big-data needs for various kinds of storage, performance and processing requirements.

• Avertana, which produces a range of mineral and chemical raw materials by extracting them from industrial waste, using innovative chemistry, advanced materials and process design.

"We are just bringing a new company on board and are in the advanced stages of approving two additional investments, so hope to have seven by the end of November," said Mr Jones.

WNT Ventures
Key partners include:
• Wharf 42
• Newnham Park (including Plus Group and Locus Research)
• TiDA (the Titanium Industry Development Association.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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