cover art for Beyond the Breakthrough featuring Anne Barnett

Anne Barnett is the chief executive of Wellington UniVentures, the tech transfer office of Victoria University of Wellington, and she joins us to discuss her plans of turning the organisation into a social enterprise renowned throughout the world for the impact it generates.

She ponders the importance of the Brandon BioCatalyst and NZ Innovation Booster funds, and examines how the pandemic has re-aligned her views on joining international groups.

Barnett also looks at the challenges around finding senior tech transfer practitioners and tells us what she would love to change about the profession if she had a magic wand.



Pleaste note, the intro and outro have been omitted.

Anne, welcome to the podcast.

Thank you. It is a pleasure to be here.

It is a pleasure to have you. To start with, can you give me an overview of Wellington UniVentures with some key figures?

No problem. We are the commercialisation company of Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington, as you mentioned. Wellington UniVentures has been operating for 30 years as an organization. However, during that time, our remit has somewhat changed. One consistent part of the mandate however has been our role in commercialization and technology transfer for our university.

One of the exciting things that is happening for us from this year is we are also taking on the mandate to run contract research activities for our university. So, that is something we are very much looking forward to. I guess one thing that I do need to state is our current status in the technology transfer setting needs to be understood in the context of a restructure that we went through around 10 years ago.

So, as listeners would appreciate as can happen in our space, particularly if resources are constrained, there needs to be a high-quality alignment in terms of mandate expectations and execution approach between the parent university and its TTO.

So, effectively 10 years ago, we were somewhat starting almost from scratch, from a very low base of activity. Everything that you see with us today has been built out over that period. Our university, to focus on that for a minute. is around about an $80 million per year research revenue institution. Off the back of that activity, we receive around 70 invention disclosures per year. We have a pipeline of around about 60 active commercialisation projects at any one time that we are managing. Our patent portfolio is a little over 200 active patent families.

At the moment, our portfolio of startups is around about 14 active startups. We have 25 full-time staff, 10 of those are permanent commercialisation staff. Then we also have a number of staff undertaking important activities around that, such as intellectual property management, contracts management. In terms of a little bit of context of how we operate, some recent analysis out of the Knowledge Commercialisation Australasia network, indicated that Wellington UniVentures are sitting in probably about the top half of all Australasian TTOs across a number of typical measures of tech transfer performance.

In some ways, our figures tell the story of a small TTO, but the key outcome for us has been that we have managed to embed a financially sustainable business model and that we can operate that at scale and our portfolio of assets I think is really starting to perform for us.  We have had three fairly good exits from startup companies in the past couple of years and we have also had the opportunity to start to create strategic partnerships that help us to maintain that financial viability. It is really this base of activity that now starts to give us the opportunity to think about ways that we can continue to grow and have impact.

We are at this point in time, the beginning of a journey to see if we can develop a more impact focused TTO model and looking to shift our business over to operate as a social enterprise and develop some quite strong impact-based ventures out of our operations as well, so that we can be focused on being rated on more than just the typical TTO and financial drivers.

I find that really interesting because I do not know if I have come across anyone else who is trying to shift the actual TTO towards being a social enterprise. Obviously creating social enterprises is at the top of everyone’s mind at the moment, is very in fashion at the moment, en vogue. How did that decision come about? Where are you in that process?

That is a really interesting situation. It just occurred to me last year and I am not sure if it was a result of the pandemic where you sit back and you really start to think about things in a little bit more depth. I live in Miramar in Wellington, which is the hub of our digital creative and film sector and there are a lot of fantastic cafes over there, we drink a lot of coffee. Oftentimes I was working from home or just going local and pondering things and doing a lot of reading.

So, I guess that is where some of these thoughts started to percolate for me. If you come back to a basic concept of what a social enterprise is, a social enterprise model for a TTO is actually not too difficult to make that connection. If you firstly explore, what do we think of a social enterprise? In the way I look at it, I consider it to be an enterprise that is driven by the need to be financially sustainable but having more than a private profit motive.

A social enterprise will look very explicitly to use economic surpluses to drive social and environmental growth. One of the key things that I guess makes social enterprises recognizably different from other nonprofits is that that is just so distinguishable from nonprofits or charities because they trade in a competitive marketplace. So, when you put all those things together, and in particular, if you are a tech transfer office that operates as a subsidiary like we do, then thinking we need to be driven by financial sustainability, we use economic surpluses to drive social and environmental and we trade in a competitive marketplace.

Those things actually perfectly describe what a lot of TTOs do. So, you can then start to think of yourself as the social enterprise and in a social enterprise setting, you are looking to have both your business model and an impact model, and they need to operate in parallel and with equal importance. I see a key part of a tech transfer office operating as a social enterprise to really utilize that impact model that you develop for yourselves to help with the decision-making processes, particularly around things like reinvestment of returns.

Where we are at in this journey, to answer that question, we are really early, so we have got this thinking, we have got a set of concepts. There is a lot of fantastic thought leadership in this space around the world. In some jurisdictions, there are formal legal enterprise models that actually support this kind of structure. So, we can take a lot of thinking from the US and the UK in particular and apply that. But I guess the thing that I am excited about from where I see this going is that it should enable a really much longer-term horizon thinking beyond that kind of project-by-project perspective, which is common in a TTO setting, where you have a very linear model and you are taking projects through.

You can start to open up questions like, If we, as an enterprise, want to significantly shift the needle on say an intractable disease problem specific to just New Zealand, how do we go about doing that? You can start to say, we define this as the kind of impact we want to have. Then we look at our university and we say, what are the assets that sit here? What are the technologies? What are the projects? What are the resources? How can we bring those together in certain ways to have impact? You are not going to ever get away from managing individual projects and opportunities, but it just makes you think differently. I personally do not see a strong difference between that model of social enterprise and what tech transfer officer do.

We are just at the process at the moment of starting to develop that impact model for ourselves and then also really starting to think critically about what is the purpose of that impact model and how are we going to utilize it? It could be as simple as I mentioned earlier about defining how you reinvest returns, even if it is at a project level or it could be a little grander and have a bit more of an existential focus.

When I hear you talk about it, it almost makes me think every TTO should be a social enterprise. Why are they not? Why is this not the mould we have followed for the last 50 years?

I think sometimes it can be a circumstance of a perspective. One of the things that you did ask us to look at, and so I am jumping into your questions now.

No, that is perfectly fine.

What advantages do we have in New Zealand, in general, perhaps at our university in particular? Sometimes when you are in a comparatively small environment, you have to think a little differently. When I took this role on, I just made it a deal with myself I am not going to be in a situation where this office, while I am running it, is restructured.

We do not want to go there. It is such a pity because usually those organizations have developed so much resource, so much knowledge, knowhow, networks, relationships, when that is taken away and you have to go back and rebuild it, it is a 10-year journey. So, I am always thinking quite critically about, what are the enterprise approaches? What are the strategic decisions that we can make to just really ensure that we are relevant and that we are really having that impact focus? And that just leads into that. It might be, we are lucky in terms of where we sit that that environment has formed that creative thinking.

What advantages do you have in New Zealand other than perhaps being able to experiment a bit more with how your TTO works?

New Zealand is an interesting situation. In general, there are some particular limitations, things that are well understood. The size of our local market, the depths of our industry in particular, the alignment of our local industries with research activities and innovations and how we are commercializing them. Things like access to funding at scale can be challenging in some cases. One thing I would highlight is that there is a real desire in the New Zealand context to create returns and benefit for New Zealand and in New Zealand.

But we are inherently small as a market, inherently a long way away from things and so there is that absolute need to go global to attain scale. So, those things are things that we need to grapple with and really think about. In terms of the advantages, I guess that that situation then has created an environment within which there has been a strong development of partnership networks within the commercialisation community. We know each other incredibly well. There is a strong degree of transfer.

You think about the tenets of what makes really good knowledge transfer. If you think about that in the commercialisation context, because it is not just thinking about transferring the knowledge from our universities outwards. But if we think about knowledge transfer between ourselves and how that works, it is about all of those things that make it work really well.

So, it is developing new talent in your organization that can transfer to other organizations or go out into industries. There is that talent piece, which is really important. There is the knowhow, the best practices and the different kinds of thinking. There is understanding a government research agency that is very focused on one particular subject matter is inherently going to have a certain type of pipeline of innovations that they have got to work with. Whereas ourselves in a university where we have a degree of activity types, or research activity types, perhaps gives us the ability to build a portfolio of activities that is more diverse and so therefore you are mitigating your risk somewhat.

I think in the New Zealand context, our advantage is we have got really good visibility of all of those different things. As a country, from a country level right down to an institute level, we can share knowledge and we can be quite critical of what is working and what is not working, with the goal being to innovate and develop upon the base that we are building. That smallness and that connectivity within ourselves can be an advantage in the context that we very definitely need to keep our eyes up to the horizon and the blinkers off because being separate, a long way from a lot of other parts of the world, particularly with the inability to travel around covid, that there can be a tendency to get really comfortable in your own backyard. So, we do need to keep that professionalism about looking outwards.

One of the things, I think you mentioned it in your first answer as well, that I wanted to pick up on was that you offer commercialisation services to external partners. What motivates that decision and what has been the uptake been so far?

In the context of New Zealand, many tech transfer offices are smaller and subscale, but they recognize that building out that internal capacity and capability takes time. In our context we have, and I mentioned earlier, we have that very high-quality commercialization partnership network in New Zealand, so we have been able to create strong trust relationships with other tech transfer offices.

They have had the opportunity to see how we work and see the kinds of activities that we undertake in different contexts, and therefore that understanding of what we do and how it can be of value as they are on their own growth journeys as tech transfer officers has been pretty apparent. I guess then that other piece, which I mentioned in the introduction, around operating at scale has really enabled us to be in a position to provide those third-party commercialization services to other TTOs, and we do that in New Zealand.

We also provide services to government research agencies here, and also at times to private enterprises where they may have something they want to work on that is just outside of normal business as usual. We are trying to be fairly broad again and thinking about the aggregation of talent and capability that we have in our organization is not typically replicated in a lot of other places. Where can we really add value and be beneficial?

So far it is going well. We have got a good reputation for that quality of what we do, but I think also the collaborative approach and that mindset where we are aiming to provide guidance and expertise that is empowering others to achieve the goals that they want to achieve, and so that relationship approach has been met really positively.

I am also jumping around now, but talking about the looking outward as well, Wellington UniVentures is partnering with the Medical Research Commercialization Fund, which is obviously originating in Australia. What does that mean for a university like yours having this international fund on your doorstep, so to speak?

That is a fantastic question. Actually, the Medical Research Commercialization Fund has recently rebranded themselves as Brandon BioCatalyst, so I will put that brand out there for them. I think this is a very good example of the scale of investment in the Australian and New Zealand setting when it comes to technology transfer. Brandon BioCatalyst have as their focus almost entirely on tech transfer from research organisations.

And as a result of that, they just have such a strong understanding of the nuances of successfully starting companies out of a research environment. It is not trivial and I guess there is that awareness and understanding coupled with the sort of length of funding that is available through a mechanism like Brandon BioCatalyst and that is particularly valuable in the Australian and New Zealand context, having a really high quality player in our backyard.

Again, it is that ability to build those, forge those relationships and navigate that process of getting opportunities up and out of a research institution.  We are always looking out for partners in funding and so the fact that they are originated from Australia is not an issue for us. We are looking towards Australia and towards other parts of the world for those really well aligned investment groups and I think Brandon BioCatalyst are a great example of that.

I am guessing one of my next questions would have been if there is room for more such international collaboration, specifically, perhaps with regards to capital and I am guessing the answer is yes.

Absolutely. If I think about where we are at in terms of the growth of our organization and the maturity and the time that we need to spend to build those relationships, we are kind of a little bit half grown at the moment. Maybe we are kind of in our teenage years, heading off to varsity. Prior to COVID, we had begun to explore a range of international collaborations that were well aligned with our business, trying to think a little bit critically about, why are people going to want to partner with us? Because IP Group you gave I think as an example, would we consider joining them?

If that makes sense for us and for an organization like IP Group, then absolutely. But when you are thinking a little bit more strategically about international collaborations, we have to think of why would any organization want to come and partner with us down in New Zealand?

And what is the value that we are bringing? We had started to identify partners that we thought and places we thought would be really great to set up some good linkages. Then of course, COVID put a little bit of the breaks on. In terms of relationships, I would comment that one of the things that was a positive out of covid and perhaps surprising at the time, but not in hindsight when you think about it, is our deal making did not stop.

We continued to conduct and secure licensing opportunities with international partners who we have never met. We continue to attract international funding into our startups. I think what happened was that in New Zealand, we are so used to doing business offshore, it is standard. We get on a plane, we get on the phone, we will take calls in the middle of the night.

Actually, I should thank you for doing this call at a time which is a time friendly for New Zealand. This is really, really good of you, but we are used to that. When we think about what was happening in covid, we continued with the project side, but the thing that did stall were those strategic international collaborations and so that is something that is hot on the front of our agenda to be getting back into that space.

One of your homegrown initiatives is the NZ Innovation Booster fund. Can you tell me about how that one came to be and what the impact has been so far?

This is a partnership that we formed in 2018 with a local financial services company called Booster and that partnership created a $10m investment fund, the NZ Innovation Booster fund. The goal of that fund was to provide funding for startup companies looking to commercialize innovations and research out of our university. A few things around that fund which are quite neat for us, it has a focus on investment in our startups, but it is always a co-investor. So, they are looking to the wider New Zealand and international investment market to provide funding as well.

They do not invest alone, but the fund achieves two really key outcomes both for us and for our companies. Firstly, it is able to provide that really critical additional capital at that early seed stage, which in some instances in New Zealand has just been a little bit limited. So, that is a really fantastic opportunity for our companies to ensure that they have really got that funding they need out the door.

Then secondly, in some cases it provides the opportunity for an early partial exit for Wellington UniVentures, because the fund can also buy us out of a portion of our shareholding. As you would appreciate, cash is king for any business, and we are no different. This mechanism allows us that opportunity to quickly recycle exit funds and reinvest in the next suite of projects.

It is just such an important mechanism, one of a few mechanisms, but a pretty important one in our financial sustainability. One of the reasons that Booster agreed to do this was because the founders of Booster are alumni from our university. This activity and this way of working is obviously beneficial to them, but it is also part of a way for them to be able to give back to the university in a way that they see as particularly meaningful because the funds that come back are reinvested in the next wave of innovations.

How easy or difficult is it generally to find money and talent for your companies?

Ah, that is the existential question, I guess. We have got a limited number but high-quality set of investors in New Zealand who really understand the space that we work in and we have got good relationships with them. Usually, the first round out the door, plus a sort of set of mechanisms that the New Zealand government has put in place and their own investment in the VC fund, does ensure that there is capital locally that is going to get things started.

Typically, in New Zealand, you can start to run into problems at that series A, series B level, but let us just say there are interventions there that are looking to work on that. For any opportunity that is really genuinely high value and market changing you are going to be able to attract the capital and a number of our companies have raised offshore and that distance is not a barrier, particularly if it is a good quality opportunity.

The talent piece is a little harder. You have to invest in talent across the board. One particular company that I am on the board of, the thing I am the most proud of of that particular one is the fact that we managed to build a talent team from having the CEO in Thailand to a high quality director over in San Diego to New Zealand based staff. Actually, one of the researchers involved is over at the University of Kentucky as well.

So, it was truly global and virtual right from the day it went out the door. But the talent coalesced around that opportunity because of the genuine quality of it and the type of data that was coming out of the research and everyone who looked at it, and actually they are all Kiwis interestingly, they just looked at it and said, wow, this is pretty cool. There is a thing there with talent. We do a bit of a build it and buy it approach. So, a number of our commercialisation staff have gone out and taken leadership roles and management roles in our spinout companies. We do develop our staff to have governance capability, but nonetheless a lot of what we are focusing on, continuing to focus on, is that networking to attract talent into companies. It can be tricky.

Talking about staff, Wellington UniVentures is celebrating 30 years this year. Your team continues to grow. How easy is it to find TTO managers in New Zealand?

That is an interesting topic. The talent pool is reasonably specific. As you notice, we are growing as an organization and we now have established specialized teams who can focus on particular subject matters, which is more akin to a more grown up and larger TTO structure.

The experience that we have had recently looking to recruit for the leadership into those specialist roles has been actually pretty successful in terms of finding high calibre applicants despite the fairly tight employment market that we have got here. It is one of the things, talent attraction and retention is so important. We have a very strong focus on that. We have a really dedicated team internally that focuses on engagement and people and culture.

Part of the reason for that is acknowledging that you need to be able to attract and retain people who might otherwise want to work in industry or in other types of occupations. We have worked hard to build a strong employment brand and really I think there is that little angle there around focusing on impact and social has a tendency to really attract people to you. It is a fantastic way of, especially we do not have a problem attracting the younger generation to be honest, we put an ad out for an analyst or an internship role, we will get flooded and the applicants are amazing and highly, highly talented and keen to grow and develop.

It is really about that senior experienced talent that is tricky to find. We have a general manager who has been with us for three years and is about to actually move on to his first CEO role as well, which is really exciting. But when I hired for that role, I had been without that general manager for 12 months, so for a period of time I was CEO and general manager of our commercialization company.

At that stage, our business had another division that we were also running. I had to really be patient to get the person who had that degree of experience in particular that we were looking for around deal making conversion and also leadership of teams. It is not always easy, and I think with the borders being closed, it restricted our ability to get people in from offshore. Having said that, one of our most recent hires who has come into a senior commercialisation role, waited six months to get through managed isolation to get back to New Zealand to work for us, so we do have an ability to make it happen if we need to.

That would have been one of my questions. Is it generally Kiwi people that you hire? What is the makeup of your staff?

We operate in a pretty multicultural environment. We have staff from a wide range of backgrounds. Typically, we have hired people who are resident in New Zealand, but people come to New Zealand from all over the world so there is a natural diversity there that is obviously healthy.

How does the engagement from your researchers fare when it comes to diversity and inclusion?

As I mentioned earlier, we operate in both a bicultural and multicultural environment in New Zealand and like all Aotearoa New Zealand agencies, we are closely examining how we manage our obligations under the Treaty of Waitangi, which is an important foundational document for our country. In the technology transfer context particularly, one of the things we need to focus on is how we work with traditional Māori knowledge, Mātauranga, and looking to ensure that we support and uphold and respect the principles and enable that knowledge to be a core part of the system. Sometimes that can be centred at odds with the Western framework for knowledge protection, so it is an area that we are working very actively on ensuring that we have best practice in that space.

That is a core tenet around inclusion, if you are wanting to ensure that you are working really proactively and well within your research community particularly in our country. More broadly, we have a diverse workforce and innovative group, and it is just that thing about being really, really important to create space for all types of knowledge and access to processes and ensuring that you do not have biases in the way that you work and behave that may be unintentionally excluding people from being involved and active. Also, cherishing and valuing diversity of thought as well.

It is not just about the particular characteristics of a person. People can look very similar, but actually think in really different ways and there are some nice approaches you can use around diversity of thought to ensure that you are really critiquing yourself and making high quality decisions as an organisation.

Do you have any specific initiatives to improve diversity and inclusion? I know for example, the University of Auckland specifically has a person on staff to deal with Māori and make sure that you know how to approach the native populations?

I guess the focus that we take, and probably in our wider university, is broadly looking to increase cultural competency among our people across the board. So, it is that confidence to engage. There are specific staff inside the university who have functions and roles like that, and we engage closely with our Māori research community at the university and in the way that we operate and the way that we think about engagement.

But for me, it is really about a much broader perspective of cultural confidence and competence, rather than looking to necessarily embed that in a particular role. I would prefer to see if we can raise the level across the board.

That makes sense. You joined Victoria University in 2013. As you said, you were general manager of commercialization. You became CEO in 2018. What prompted you to pursue a career in tech transfer and what made you join Victoria University in particular?

Actually, you are very kind because when I first started, I was a general manager of myself. I did not actually have that title. I was just a regular old commercialisation manager. That was part of the context that I mentioned earlier was that we had been very significantly restructured. So, when I joined, I was the sole commercialization manager.

We had an intellectual property manager and then the managing director of the organization also ran a number of projects himself and was fairly active in the commercialization process too. What prompted me to join was a couple of things.

Firstly, I am a Wellingtonian originally and I had moved back to New Zealand a few years earlier and then fairly immediately got a job with a startup, actually from the University of Otago down in Dunedin and that led quickly to a role in business development, which lead quickly to me being on a plane a lot and away. So, when I finished that role, I really wanted to be in my hometown and I was ready to put my roots back down here.

That is the local genesis, but the reason I was actually prepared to say, yes, I would like to take this on was because of the restructure. If this had been an organization that had been highly flourishing and really competent, there is a little less attraction there.

I actually quite enjoy the challenge and the opportunity to come into an organization that in my mind should be high performing, particularly in a city that I am quite passionate about and say, hey look, how can I get into this and make a difference? As I was working in a new field in a new career direction, I guess there was the opportunity to fly under the radar for a bit, get your stripes, make your mistakes, fail in a friendly environment and learn and grow. So, that has been a fantastic challenge.

One of the other perks about, perhaps it is a New Zealand thing a little bit as well, but being in this kind of environment is, during that time I have had two children as well. Sometimes I forget how long I have actually been in this job. But the whole career development opportunity has been incredibly supportive. I am a scientist by training and I love science and I love deep tech, but when I was a researcher myself, I did find it a little difficult to see myself landing on one thing and really pursuing that one scientific topic for a long period of time.

Tech transfer, it is amazing. It is like you are a magpie, there are shiny things everywhere. I am not being flippant about it, but the opportunity to learn and to just immerse yourself and enjoy subject matters. So, coming into a very, very small organization, I was doing the lot. I was running projects. I think one of my first projects was in enzymology and I literally had the patent on one screen and Google on the other. I was trying to work this through. But you get through those things fairly quickly and figure out what to focus on.

As a physicist, I would never have dreamed I would be running a project on developing drugs for Alzheimer’s disease. So, it has just been such a joy. One of the things that I have had to really let go of is being the chief executive. That is no longer my job and I have a fantastic, amazing team. They are really highly specialised, and I can see how they are able to really bring their subject matter and execute on projects in a fantastic way. It has just been a pleasure. It has not been one job for what is it now nine years. It has been a really dynamic and changing opportunity. My perspective, if anyone was looking to go jump into tech transfer and they are feeling entrepreneurial and that, do not go for the really well-established organizations, go find those opportunities where you can make a huge difference. You can really move the needle on the way this organization is operating. That is probably why I am still here and still loving it, and that is the motivation.

Amazing. What is your vision for Wellington UniVentures future, other than the social enterprise aspects?

Oh, gosh, that is a really good question and it is always a sort of question I feel like I should have this perfect answer off the back of my fingertips, but my real vision, and the social enterprise thing is sitting there as kind of an enabler, is to just no longer be viewed as a tech transfer organization, that that is not the language that is used, that we are seen as an organization that is able to create very significant impact for Wellington, for New Zealand.

Then ultimately for challenges are of global relevance, my vision is really that we are going to punch way above our weight, but people will be going, oh, gee, how did those guys do that down in New Zealand at a little local university? How have they managed to move the dial on this thing? So, my vision is really, we are not going to be perfect and incredible at everything, we cannot handle every subject matter, but there are some things where we have got a nexus here of some very genuinely world leading research with innovative ways of thinking.

What I would like to see is our organisation having taken those and just scale them up to something that is really outsized for what people would expect us to be doing.

I am perhaps biased, but I think you are already punching above your weight, at least from where I am sitting. You have been on my radar and I have spoken to people from MIT, Stanford and University of Auckland, and I think I reached out to you first six months ago or something. So, you have already been noticed internationally by at least one person.

If you had a magic wand, is there anything that you would change about tech transfer? You are perhaps in a good position now, if you are changing how things are run, what is the nagging thing?

What would I change? In some ways this is already happening, but one of the key things there is really around the importance of that activity. It can be put at the peripheral. Technology transfer can be seen as somewhat just another central service function of an institution.

If I could magic wand it, it would be that universally, it is not viewed that way, that universally people can really see that there is a genuine value to be had here and then the thing that goes along with that is patience, please, patience people, particularly from the parent organizations. Just creating genuinely sustainable operations in this space takes time. It really does.

Do not be too quick to throw the baby out with the bath water when things get difficult, always come back and look at like, Okay, maybe this organization is not functioning how we want to but let us be really constructive about how we take the learnings and the networks, what actually is working and then build on that and develop it.

So, a long-winded answer again, I am sorry about that. But just really if everyone was able to understand that value that can be brought, that would be spectacular.

I think that is a wish that would probably be shared by many, if not all, of your peers. You have already mentioned one company. You very diplomatically did not name it, but can you give me some examples of startups that you are proud of at Wellington?

Sure. It is a little cliché, but I am actually really proud of all of our spinouts from the perspective that the elements that have to come together to create one are pretty special. Everyone appreciates that, I guess. But, in terms of highlights, if you are going to hold my feet to the fire here, I think it is the companies that have really passionate entrepreneurs at their head and who have come from the research setting and are working on solutions to really critical problems. Those in some ways are the ones that really stand out.

To give you one particular example, one of our startups is XFrame. It is a really clever play in the circular economy. They have a building system that can basically be completely deconstructed at the end of life and reused. Actually, one of the other reasons I love it is because you can use this particular X frame building system to create internal office structures and so we have been able to put some of it in our own office. That is actually really pretty neat, so I can see it every day. What is really neat about that particular opportunity is just the way that they are getting traction. They have a really solid foundation in Australia and New Zealand and then looking very quickly offshore for their next move.

I think that it is really gratifying when you get to see in this particular case, the particular innovation is actually really subtle, but really well conceived. Nonetheless the impact that you can generate from a subtle and well-conceived invention is really particularly significant in the space that they are playing in. So, to me, that is probably a standout that I would be happy to highlight.

Amazing. That almost brings us to the end. One final question. You may not have an answer, but Is there anything else that we have not covered that you want people to know about Wellington UniVentures?

Actually, I am going to reframe your question because it does not say know about Wellington UniVentures. I am going to take it more broadly, but I was thinking about this. The message I would really like to end with is New Zealand is very soon going to be back open for tourism and for business travellers.

We are a really wonderful, vibrant and welcoming country, and we are really not that far away. I know people think we are, but we really are not. So, if you ever thought about visiting New Zealand one day, I would really encourage you to think about making it this year.

We would love to see you. I guess if the pandemic has taught us anything it is, do not make any assumptions about what is coming, carpe diem, seize the day, and I would very much love to have you visit.

Amazing. Thank you so much for joining me today. It has been a real pleasure talking to you and learning more about your work.

Thank you. It has been a pleasure talking to you.

Thierry Heles

Thierry Heles is the editor of Global University Venturing, host of the Beyond the Breakthrough interview podcast and responsible for the monthly GUV Gazette (sign up here for free).