New Zealand honey and health products company Comvita and the Institute for Innovation in Biotechnology (IIB) at the University of Auckland have recently won the KiwiNet Minter Ellison Rudd Watts Research and Business Partnership Award. The citation recognises the IIB as a prime example of the triple helix model of university, industry and government collaboration to accelerate innovation and provide career opportunities for graduates.
Established in 2006 with a generous grant from the NZ government, the IIB operates in the premises of the School of Biological Sciences on the University’s city campus, and invites the co-location of research-intensive life science companies thereby giving them full access to its hi-tech facilities and academic expertise. Currently, nine companies have groups of staff co-located in the IIB.
The IIB model demonstrates that collaboration between academic and industry researchers increases innovation and accelerates commercial outcomes. Benefits are mutual to both academic and company partners. Co-location is particularly cost-effective for companies which need access to specialised equipment, facilities, and technical knowledge. There is also the option to engage in commercial research projects with research groups across the university. Benefits to the university include additional revenues from commercial contract research, the better utilisation of its expensive facilities and the large number of industry supervised research projects for graduate students.
Academic-industry partnerships as exemplified by the IIB are rapidly becoming a core component of the open innovation models which are increasingly being adopted by the global technology companies.
By Joerg Kistler, BioPacific Partners Venture Partner and Director of BIO INC