University investment fund doubles value with refreshed Te Ao Māori focus

A fund to accelerate commercial start-ups from the University doubles in value.

UniServices Kaiārahi Tui Kaumoana
UniServices Kaiārahi Tui Kaumoana

Waipapa Taumata Rau, University of Auckland has doubled its Inventors' Fund and expanded it to support Te Ao Māori entrepreneurship.

The fund is now worth $40m and will continue to be managed by the UniServices, the University’s research application and commercialisation company. The increased commitment is built on 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.”

Will Charles, executive director of commercialisation for UniServices
Will Charles, executive director of commercialisation for UniServices

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 are working towards the development of a tikanga-led Māori investment rōpu (committee) to future-proof lasting impacts by and for te ao Māori,” said UniServices' Kaiārahi Tui Kaumoana.

“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.”

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.”

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 want 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 Will Charles.

Media contact

Karen Kawawada| Communications manager
M: 027 242 8214