Wellington IS the World…

Or almost….

On Friday night I had the privilege of MCing the Unlimited Potential Wellington to the World event. W2W showcased two things I consider very important, the application and commercialisation of research, and new business. It was a great evening, I caught up with a bunch of people I see all to infrequently, met up with a few I’ve talked to at length but never met in person, and met some new faces who I’ll be watching for in the months and years to come.

I’ve lifted the synopses of the talks from the Unlimited Potential flier;

VicLink

VicLink is the commercialisation arm of Victoria University that seeks to take pure research and work on application and commercialisation of that research. VicLink had four presentations;

Daniel Crabtree – The Future of Search

Future search engines will be much quicker and find results that are more relevant, which indirectly improves productivity by increasing knowledge. Competition will force businesses to adopt these new technologies, lest they be left behind. The road to the perfect search engine is long and winding, but Daniel’s research on clustering, hard queries, and improved semantic understanding may appear around the next corner.

Prof Dale Carnegie –Robotics and Mechatronics

Robots within robots and robots that perform functions such as search and rescue or security, these are amongst the topics explored by the Mechatronics and Robotics Research Group. Victoria University’s Engineering and Computer Science Schools are drawing closer together and are looking to industry for future collaborations.

Dr Peter Komisarczuk –Internet Network Security

Victoria’s resident networking guru. Peter and his team have been developing scalable mechanisms to search the web for malicious or compromised servers and enabling blacklisting of these sites and analysing the attacks being launched. This work provides the basis for business opportunities in services and security software/system development.

Ross Stevens – DesignLedFutures.com

A web based research project that challenges design students to propose future scenarios directly to world leading brands including Fisher and Paykel, Methven, Nike USA and Vodafone. Concepts range from self replicating 3D printers to highly realistic virtual worlds. Corporate sponsorship is being sought for the initiative.

The Start-Ups

Four start-ups gave pitches;

Matt Burgess – iPredict

iPredict is a Victoria University spin-off venture that harnesses the “wisdom of crowds” by offering a web-based trading system that predicts market outcomes. Prediction markets have enormous potential in corporate and government environments in answering questions on revenue and cost forecasting, predicting regulatory and legal outcomes, policy analysis, improving the hit rate in the innovation process, and obtaining market intelligence.

Ben Wilde – Fingertapps

Fingertapps is an exciting new software framework for developing multi-touch and gestural user interfaces. The company deploys the product in both consumer devices and in-store interactive marketing settings. A number of global corporate clients have been signed already.

Clare Howden – Futrix

Futrix offers a web-based business intelligence tool. The product drills down into corporate business data and provides snappy reporting for over-worked executives. In today’s economic client, the product offers a rapid ROI by reducing time required for business analysis.

Ed Robinson – Aptimize Ltd

This will be the first public outing for Runtime Page Optimizer, a product that helps companies improve their websites by doubling speed and halving traffic costs. Aptimize is a new company, with global patents pending, and was recently endorsed by Google and Microsoft. Aptimize is on a steep growth trajectory with major website customers in the USA, Europe and New Zealand.

The highlights for me from the VicLink participants were Dale and Ross’ presentations (hey, guys have an affinity for robots and 3D printing!). As for the start-ups, Matt and iPredict have been getting a significant amount of press of late (elections are great for showcasing prediction software!) and Aptimize would seem to have a product with incredible potential (look for a review of their offing on CloudAve sometime soon). Freudian slip of the evening? Me saying “I’m sure lots of people will be wanting to take a look at Ed’s tool”!

All in all a fantastic night – many thanks to the UP committee for the invitation and well done to all of the participants.

2 Comments
  • Yes I agree that commercialization of research is vital to NZ’s competitiveness in the technology sector. I am still amazed at the lack of enthusiasm amongst some of our entrepreneurs in not seeking partnership with University R&Ds. There are a couple of reasons I think why. First, entrepreneurs are not aware of such potential to seek help or advisory role from University R&Ds, ie, most don’t even know that University R&Ds are waiting for a knock on their doors from entrepreneurs. Second some entrepreneurs don’t think that they need help at all, since they think the technology that they have developed, is there all to it, ie, there is no need to engage with University R&Ds in expensive exercises & collaborations.

    Here is an interesting comment from Auckland University Computer Science HOD, Prof. Hosking, that was published in the NZ Herald, last year (2007) by IT journo Simon Hendery.

    John Hosking, professor of applied computer science at the university and a driving forces behind Extenda, says one problem is that senior technology staff in New Zealand businesses tend not to have post-graduate or often even degree qualifications. As a result, the companies they work for, while often successful at selling a single idea, can struggle when it comes to continuing to grow through innovation.

    “Although they [the technology managers] are bright and innovative, they haven’t been exposed to research methods as you would through doing a masters or PhD,” he says.

    “We’d like to open their eyes to what research can do to make companies grow quicker. Obviously we’d be interested in helping them do that research – we’re quite open about that – but the name of the game is to raise a research culture within their companies, and allow them to grow quicker, be more innovative and avoid this one-product wonder trap that they get into.

    Prof. Hosking’s comment is right on the mark here. To compete in the global level, one has to take advantage of R&D work that are coming out of our Universities.

    As someone like me who read lots of different peer review journals in computing, mathematics, economics/finance, engineering & science which are useful for my own work, I do witness valuable knowledge that are just being rotten and lying unused (though not all of them) in the literatures without being grabbed & developed for commercialize use. Since entrepreneurs don’t have the know how or time to scour the technology peer review literatures, the best they can do is connect with University R&Ds. This is what University R&D groups do, they scour the peer review literatures on a continual basis (depends how often those new journal issues are coming out) looking for new solutions or improving existing solutions.

    These University R&D groups know what is going around the world, since they read the latest researches that are coming out from say, China, Argentina, UK, US, Taiwan, Europe, which are being published in international reputable research journals. So, for businesses to link up with University R&Ds is a very good idea. They basically act as one’s eyes to the world. The fact is, sometimes our entrepreneurs have developed some technology where they claim or think that is a world beater. Unbeknown to them that what they’ve developed was in fact not something world beater, because it has already been done before, ie, their technology has been publicly been available in the literatures prior to them being aware that it has been done before. I see this all the time being reported in our news media.

    The advantage of linking up with University R&Ds is that you will always one step ahead of any potential emerging competitor from the other corner in the world.

  • And for those interested….the entrepreneur presentations are now available on our Youtube channel.

    http://www.youtube.com/user/UPW2W

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