New Zealand has plenty of world class ICT intellectual property - the challenge is to leverage off it to build global scale companies and that’s where the government can help.
The Foundation for Research, Science and Technology (FRST) and New Zealand Trade and Enterprise (NZTE) both support companies to go global. When making investments FRST looks for research and development that has strong commercialisation potential. FRST business managers want to see the science or technology stretch but they are also looking for information on how a firm will take the research to the market and whether the company has the dollars and the people to support its objectives. Business managers often work closely with the firm to help flesh out these details, a valuable exercise in itself because it can show the company any weaknesses or gaps in its roadmap and ensure they properly protect their IP. This reduces business risk to the firm and increases FRST’s confidence that the research results will be successfully commercialised.
FRST investments support a wide range of things, from feasibility studies on technology development projects, to bringing world class experts into a business to transfer knowledge, the costs of the actual research and development work and developing prototypes to attract venture capital investors. Recent investment in KoComm for example, the software development subsidiary of online learning development company Intuto, is helping the company develop an artificial intelligence system that could halve the time it takes to create online formats for text books, reports and presentations. The new technology has the potential to deliver spectacular growth for both companies by capturing a niche, e-learning market that is worth billions of dollars. This kind of high margin, internet-based business in a high growth market is exactly the kind of knowledge based technology that FRST investment is designed to support.
FRST business managers also put businesses in touch with technical experts or other companies. Connecting Auckland’s Cabco Group with Harvest Electronics, for example, meant Cabco could introduce telemetry to its high-tech shopping carts, leading to a contract with the world’s largest retailer, WalMart, which could return $US50 million a year within five years.
When it comes to getting the business planning right, preparing for capital raising and heading offshore, NZTE steps into the picture. Its offshore offices are ideally placed to provide market intelligence and facilitate partnerships with global companies that already have channels to market, overcoming a key barrier for many New Zealand companies. NZTE also organises New Zealand delegations to attend key international trade shows and identifies opportunities for collaborations for New Zealand companies targeting large international opportunities. At the top end NZTE has a Beachhead Programme which gives Kiwi companies a head start in key markets through access to top quality connections and services and facilities at reduced costs.
While New Zealand does not yet have any iconic global ICT companies, they are coming. With FRST developing the science and NZTE building capability and helping with commercialisation, successful New Zealand companies will achieve global scale.
Both organisations have business or client managers assigned to work closely with individual firms and help them achieve the best results from investments.
To find out more visit their websites – www.frst.govt.nz and www.nzte.govt.nz – or contact Craig Holmes on 021 889 488 alternatively Maurice Stilwell on 029 442 3358.