Providing investment and industry know-how to grow and commercialise Kiwi deep tech startups, with Callaghan Innovation’s Technology Incubator Programme.
What is the Technology Incubator Programme and what are the benefits of joining?
Callaghan Innovation’s Technology Incubator Programme supports the commercialisation of complex products and technologies. These advanced technologies are often derived out of research and development (R&D). Incubators focus on building a business around the technology to grow and commercialise globally competitive deep-tech businesses.
Incubators screen complex technologies from Universities, Crown Research Institutes, and private sources to select intellectual property (IP) that, with the right business capability, have the potential to be a high-value export success. They then provide investment and incubation services to their portfolio companies, including market validation, dedicated incubation facilities, business planning and development, and governance and management processes.
How does the programme work?
High-quality tech incubators support deep tech startups with their services and expertise, including for sectors of strategic importance to New Zealand, such as agrifood and life sciences.
Eligible deep tech startups can access funding (detail below) for a specific commercialisation project. Funding is available to startups, and potential startups, partnering with one of the technology incubators (see below). Deep tech can require many years of investment and development to become market ready, and is considered risky. The Technology Incubator Programme de-risks the early-stage commercialisation journey through funding and startup support.
Startup funding detail:
Successful applicants will receive a minimum of $1,000,000 in funding, made up of $750,000 in the form of a Repayable Grant from Callaghan Innovation, and a minimum of $250,000 in private investment. To be considered for a Repayable Grant, the Technology Incubator will apply to Callaghan Innovation on behalf of the business, providing a business case, project plan, budget, and investment terms.
The repayable funding portion consists of two parts:
- Pre-incubation Grant of $35,000 to conduct due diligence on the technology and test the commercial viability of an idea.
- Repayable Grant of up to $750,000 to fund the start-up’s costs associated with commercialising the technology. This is ‘success-based’ grant funding, where ventures only start making repayments when they start earning revenue at 3% of revenue per annum, or when they exit.
Repayable Grant applications are assessed by a committee made up of Callaghan Innovation’s Executive Leadership Team and independent committee members.
To apply for a Repayable Grant, your business must be the following:
- An early-stage startup with a long commercialisation path.
- A high-growth venture with global ambition.
- A technical venture with some technical validation to date.
- Incorporated in New Zealand and benefit New Zealand.
To qualify, the venture/project must also:
- Have a deep-tech, novel and complex IP proposal with significant scientific or technical advancement.
- Have a credible project plan, commercialisation plan and budget, and the incubator must have allocated adequate resources to support the venture.
- Be consistent with the tech incubator’s overall strategy and speciality area, or provide an acceptable rationale for any deviation from strategy.
Incubators are expected to have between 20% and 50% shareholding in the venture, to help ensure this support is being provided to sufficiently early-stage and high-risk deep tech startups. The Repayable Grants Committee may consider exceptions to this on a case-by-case basis.
Tech Incubator partners
Brandon Capital Partners
Brandon Capital Partners (Brandon), established in 2007, is a leading life science venture capital firm with a New Zealand and Australian presence. As a life science technology incubator, Brandon will curate and seed promising life sciences research discoveries, providing access to capital, expertise and hands-on training to support the next generation of New Zealand life science companies. With networks and capacity generated through the Medical Research Commercialisation Fund (MRCF), and with staff in NZ, Australia, USA and the UK, it brings a strong international perspective. Brandon has over $700 million in funds under management with the capacity to provide significant funding to support ideas through to commercialisation.
Deep-tech incubator, WNT Ventures was created in 2014 through a collaboration with experienced entrepreneurs and institutional capital providers. Its key mission is to support the commercialisation of complex technology by sourcing, investing in and incubating high growth early stage businesses with global potential. WNT has interests in sustainability, agritech and food, artificial intelligence, medtech, engineering, sensing and industrial automation. During the pilot technology incubator programme, WNT has raised and invested two funds totalling $7.8 million and alongside Callaghan Innovation have invested in 14 companies throughout New Zealand.
Bridgewest Ventures is part of the Bridgewest Group (“Bridgewest”), a US-based investment company, which also operates a Technology Incubator in San Diego, California. Bridgewest has been successful in its ability to incubate and launch major global innovation-led companies and intends to leverage this experience to replicate the same successful model in New Zealand. Bridgewest’s deep technology experience is wide-ranging and includes biotechnology, agri-tech, pharmaceuticals, UAV technology, IoT and semiconductor, AI and software development, as well as drug discovery and deep research into health technology. It intends to leverage its connections, international reach, and commercialisation experience to transform New Zealand opportunities into world-class companies.
Sprout is an existing Callaghan Innovation-funded business based in Palmerston North and has been working with agrifoodtech start-ups since 2015. Its focus is on investing in entrepreneurs and technologies that improve the efficiency and sustainability of food production and distribution. As a newly appointed Callaghan Technology Incubator, Sprout will extend its activities to provide emerging agrifood technologies and start-ups with a pathway to global markets and international investment networks. Sprout’s technology incubator has a mix of international, local and sector-focused investors including Fonterra, Finistere Ventures and Our Crowd.
How can you sign up?
Researchers, inventors or teams can approach Callaghan Innovation’s Technology Incubators partners directly to apply for the programme. From there, the incubator will typically assess suitability.
Find out more
For more information, please contact our
Visit our Learning for Startups page for other Startup resources and find out more about the other programmes Callaghan Innovation offers
Updated: 27 March 2023