One million dollars in growth funding is to be shared between three winners of the University of Auckland Business School Entrepreneurs' Challenge.

Biological software company Biomatters, environmentally friendly pesticide producer Greentide and gourmet yoghurt maker Piako have had their expansion plans turbo-charged with the funding and mentoring package.

The winners were announced last night.

Now in its second year, the fund was established with a $3 million donation from expatriate businessman Charles Bidwill.

Bidwill, who was associated with Ceramco, Bendon, Baycorp and Steel & Tube in the 1980s and 1990s, helped establish the Entrepreneurs' Challenge with the aim of creating an entrepreneurial culture.

Chairman of the Entrepreneurs' Challenge investment Brian Hannan said all 10 of the finalists would have met the criteria that Bidwill had in mind when he set up the competition.

In the final stage of the Dragons' Den-style competition the companies were tested by a seven-member investment committee and the business school's due diligence partners, including AJ Park, Ernst & Young and Simpson Grierson.

"We do a lot of very objective, highly skilled due diligence. The discipline is to look at these companies as if you were looking to buy them yourself," said Hannan.

"We look for the clarity of purpose, commitment and robustness to succeed with a very strong measure of innovation and something that conceptually can really mean something to New Zealand."

Both Biomatters and Piako Yoghurt intend to use the three-year loan and support to boost overseas expansion plans.

Biomatters will be focusing on the US market where it has signed several high-profile deals for its biological research software and is in the process of opening two offices.

Gourmet yoghurt makers Piako is in the final stages of establishing a British manufacturing base with a goal of having its creamy fruit-flavoured yoghurt on the shelves of upmarket department store Harrods by Christmas.

Bio-agritech manufacturer Greentide said the money would be put towards expanding the production base at a faster rate.

Last year's winners, coffee company Allpress, smart water meter developer Outpost Central and hotwater heating control technology company Senztek have used their share of the $1 million to fast-track ventures overseas.

Allpress opened a new roastery and espresso bar in London in September and Senztek sent its chief executive to Britain to boost its presence in the market.

Outpost Central has continued its marketing push into Australia.

Hannan said the business school remained hopeful that people who were in a position to help grow the fund would step forward.

"We've got an enormous drain of talented people going overseas and one of the ways of keeping people here is to innovate new companies with new technologies."

THE WINNERS
* Biomatters: Biological research software.

* Greentide: Bioagritech company manufacturing biological-based pesticides.

* Piako Gourmet Yoghurt: Gourmet yoghurt producers.