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Callaghan Innovation Tech Incubator a $70M public-private sector success story

This article was published on Oct 4, 2022, 11:03 AM

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Callaghan Innovation reveals its Tech Incubator programme has been responsible for more than $70 million in investment and the creation of more than 120 jobs.

What's in this article

    Designed to provide Kiwi deep-tech startups with strong breadth and depth of commercialisation support, international and local connections, and access to investment, the Tech Incubator programme was piloted in 2014 and in 2020 was updated to incorporate learnings from the pilot.

    Under the pilot, a minimum of $600,000 was required to invest in each startup included in the programme, comprising a $450,000 grant from Callaghan Innovation and $150,000 in co-investment from the incubator. The current version has increased this funding to include a $750,000 repayable grant from Callaghan Innovation and $250,000 in private investment from the incubator.

    There are four Tech Incubators run by Brandon Capital, Bridgewest Ventures, Sprout Agritech and WNT Ventures. Three of these are new with international connections and all are able to provide pastoral support, as well as funding, to startups participating in the programme.

    Since 2020, $70 million total funding has been committed for investment, of which Callaghan Innovation has contributed $15.75 million in the form of 21 repayable government grants of $750,000 to startups via the programme, and $3.75 million in programme operational funding.

    An impressive $50 million in private sector funding has been invested, far exceeding the $5.25 million minimum required to access repayable grants.

    The programme is also setting new highs around gender diversity in the world of startups. MBIE data from 2021 shows the statistics for women in a startup founding team are just 21 percent, which is consistent internationally. With the Tech Incubator programme, 40 percent of the founding team are women.

    Callaghan Innovation’s Chief Executive Stefan Korn sees these results as validation of the decision to refresh the Tech Incubator programme.

    “We’re thrilled to see how well the private sector is engaging with the programme – witnessing the private sector funding exceed the minimum required is strong testament to the quality of the startups entering into the Tech Incubator programme.

    “We are also really pleased to see the number of women founders engaged in the programme. It’s encouraging to see more diversity within the startup community, such as the increase of women founders within deep-tech. We’re always looking for ways to increase this across the board, and in this case, this has been achieved by requiring startups to submit a diversity plan as part of their application for funding,” Korn continues.

    Amaroq Therapeutics, founded by Dr Sarah Diermeier, is a biotech start-up spun out of the University of Otago which has one of the world’s most advanced programmes in next-generation RNA therapy to target cancer. In 2021 Amaroq Therapeutics received $14m investment to accelerate its programme, in a funding round led by Brandon Capital which included a repayable grant from Callaghan Innovation’s Tech Incubator programme.

    “There are very few companies exploring lncRNA for oncology purposes so the process of getting the research to market is complex but the support the programme provides is crucial. It enables us to access a supportive network of like-minded people to help us as we create what has the potential to be a ground-breaking cancer therapy,” says Dr Diermeier.

    To spread the net as widely as possible, the Tech Incubator programme also offers ‘pre-incubation grants’ of up to $35,000. This helps Callaghan Innovation’s incubator partners complete due diligence on promising ideas or ventures they have found.

    Other recent Tech Incubator start-ups include TamoRx, MACSO Technologies, ScentianBio and CarbonCrop.

    For more information, visit www.callaghaninnovation.govt.nz/fund/technology-incubators


    Notes to editors:

    Download a photo of Callaghan Innovation Chief Executive Stefan Korn.

    Media contact:

    For more information or to arrange an interview please contact:

    Ciara Byrne: cb@manacommunications.com | +61 413 519 430
    Annabella Gamboni: ag@manacommunications.com | +64 204 010 1702

    About the Technology Incubator Programme:

    • Successful applicants to the Technology Incubator Programme receive at least $1m in funding – a $750,000 repayable grant from Callaghan Innovation and at least $250,000 in private investment.
    • The programme works by pairing people with mould-breaking ideas with one of Callaghan Innovation’s four partner incubators: Brandon Capital Partners, WNT Ventures, Bridgewest Ventures, and Sprout Agritech.
    • Start-ups work directly with their incubator, taking advantage of bespoke support to refine and commercialise their idea in an environment that reduces the risks entrepreneurs and researchers face on the journey from concept to market.
    • Each incubator has deep specialist expertise across a range of technology sectors and help with more than funding – they offer a support system that includes insights, access to networking and connections, mentorship and more.


    About Callaghan Innovation

    Callaghan Innovation is New Zealand’s innovation agency. The organisation’s primary mandate is to activate innovation and accelerate commercialisation to help businesses grow faster for a better New Zealand.

    The government agency partners with ambitious businesses of all sizes, delivering a range of innovation and research and development (R&D) services to suit each stage of their growth. Callaghan Innovation’s staff empower innovators by connecting people, opportunities and networks, and providing tailored technical solutions, skills and capability development programmes, and grants co-funding.

    Callaghan Innovation also enhances the operation of New Zealand’s innovation ecosystem, working closely with MBIE, NZTE, NZGCP, Crown Research Institutes, and other organisations that help increase business investment in R&D and innovation. The agency operates from four urban offices and a regional partner network in a further 12 locations across Aotearoa.

    Gracefield Innovation Quarter is home to more than 200 of New Zealand’s leading scientists, researchers and technicians, along with a suite of tenant businesses. The site features state-of-the-art specialist workshops, pilot plants, labs and equipment, and world-class measurement facilities.



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