In a recent publication, the New Zealand government has expressed a clear description of what it expects of its growing science and innovation system. ‘Excellence’ and ‘Impact’ will be the main criteria for public investment. All science should have a strong line-of-sight of the eventual benefits to businesses and society. The government aims to increase public investment in R&D from its current level of 0.67% to reach 0.8% of GDP with the intention that the private sector increases its investment to at least 1% of GDP by 2025.

The government’s commitment to growing the science system is already showing positive results: in the recently released Global Innovation Index 2015, New Zealand ranked 15th overall of 141 countries, an improvement from 18th in 2014. Its global ranking for residents filing at the national patent office has also improved from 8th in 2014 to 6th in 2015. New Zealand was again ranked first in the world for ease of starting a business and protecting investors.

In a more detailed analysis, 50.6% of New Zealand’s publications have international co-authors – strong evidence that researchers are well connected internationally. On the other hand, only 3.2% of publications have academic and corporate affiliations and government strategies are clearly focused on increasing academic-industry collaboration. The investment emphasis is on mission-led programmes with 42% share of public funding, industry-led programmes (26%), and investigator-led programmes (32%). This funding structure creates a strong incentive for more academic-industry collaboration.

The commitment to grow the science and innovation system goes in parallel to new government initiatives to attract multinational companies to New Zealand as an R&D destination. Life sciences related sectors – the innovation areas covered by BioPacific Partners – constitute 56% of total R&D expenditure across primary industries, health and environment. BioPacific Partners is therefore well placed to connect its multinational corporate partners with the newest innovations from New Zealand while at the same time supporting the government’s strategies to grow New Zealand’s reputation as a major global innovation hub.

By Joerg Kistler, BioPacific Partners Venture Partner and Director of BIO INC


One of our Executive Directors, Dr Andrew Kelly, this month accepted an invitation to join the Board of a $135 million research program on High Value Nutrition, part of the New Zealand National Science Challenge system. The Challenge is a 10-year, mission-led research program where researchers from across multiple Universities and research institutes come together under single leadership to tackle the big issues facing the nation. The High Value Nutrition program aims to raise the amount of value added to the food products that New Zealand is famed for internationally.

Last year Andrew was the Independent Chairman of the international panel which assessed this program, so he was delighted to be asked to continue contributing in this new role now that the Challenge is underway


Green-lipped mussels are New Zealand’s leading aquaculture product. In raw product alone, mussel farmers exported 34,000 tons worth NZD 190M in 2012. Green-lipped mussel extract, which is used in supplements and biopharmaceuticals, generates additional revenues of around NZD 40M. Green lipped mussel extract is well known for its anti-inflammatory properties associated with joint pain, arthritis, and Crohn’s disease.

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NZBIO, Wellington

NZBIO 2015, held in the ‘southernmost capital city in the world’, Wellington, New Zealand recently, was an excellent conference this year. A change of city, a great venue (our national Museum, Te Papa) and an up-tick on attendances compared to recent years all created a great vibe.

And it was excellent for BioPacific too since I had been asked to deliver a plenary paper, Margot Bethell delivered a panel session on managing innovation, and Tim McCready delivered a paper on investing – three BioPacific presentations in the one conference! It’s good to know that our long-term support for the sector has built recognition in the biotech community down here.

As you might expect of a national BIO conference in a small country like New Zealand, NZBIO is quite eclectic – the term “life science” really applies here, with food, health and agriculture all getting somewhat equal shares of the limelight. And in a similar way the highlights were a mixture of our strong suits – food & agriculture – with some great cutting-edge medical biotech.

I think my personal favourite was the creation of plants with more efficient respiration and the growth advantages this can bring under high temperature and CO2 levels. This involved a combination of one natural and one synthetic gene which improves the normally inefficient energy cycle. I think it epitomises the high science that is going to be needed to cope with global warming and I’m really proud that it comes from our little corner of the world.

I know it’s a long way to come from the big population centres of the world, but I would commend NZBIO to anyone as a fascinating and fun conference.

ABIC, Melbourne

The AgBiotech International Conference, held in Melbourne recently, is a truly international gathering, and one of my favourites. It’s not easy for us ‘down-under’ folks to get to them but, as testament to the strength of our ag sector, this is the second time ABIC has been held down here in the last 9 years. And that leads to a delightful local take on many of the global issues.

For example, the social & regulatory acceptance, or otherwise, of gene editing was a question that ran through the conference, reflecting that Australia has internal discord on this issue, with some States banning GM and others accepting it.

The conference also had a strong thread on communication, with some fascinatingly diverse speakers covering how to communicate science, and risk in particular, and how to track what is being communicated.

Precision agriculture was another major theme, with some really mind-blowing future scenarios being painted about when big data gets easier and easier to collect, to manage and to use. Outside of consumer science, I reckon agriculture will be the second early adopter of big data.

In a very Australian ending to the conference, a presentation was given by Dr Gerard Davis, General Manager Innovation & Technology for Australia’s largest cattle ranch, the Australian Agricultural Company. This corporate farm has land about the same size as Belgium, Netherlands and Luxemburg combined, or similar to the State of South Carolina. There are numerous challenges with producing high quality beef across such a large holding and Dr Davis showed many ways in which modern agritech is making that easier and more sustainable.

As usual, the crowd was very friendly and the conversations vigorous, helped by being a small enough conference that pretty much everyone can catch-up with everyone else. I commend this conference to anyone interested in the business of agbiotech – the next one is being held in Fargo, North Dakota – how’s that for a change from Australia!


ABIC 2015

This year’s Agricultural Bioscience International Conference found a welcoming home in Melbourne, Australia. Multinationals such as Bayer CropScience, Monsanto, Syngenta, and Pepsi, mingled with research groups and businesses from Australasia including CSIRO, AgResearch, and a full complement of universities. The three-day conference explored the thorny issues around innovation in agritech, its global applications, and public perception.

Our co-CEO, Dr Andrew Kelly, spoke in three different sessions covering “Pathways to market for plant innovation”, “Global investment strategies”, and a snapshot session on the NZ and Australian agricultural R&D landscape.

Andrew Kelly - ABIC

Andrew delivers a snapshot of the agricultural R&D landscape in Australasia. (Photo courtesy of KCA Inc.)

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Part four of our four-part spotlight on Australia. In this series of short articles, we profile Australia and three of its main cities for life sciences innovation: Melbourne, Brisbane, and Sydney.

Australia - Sydney

New South Wales is home to approximately 200 life science companies and exports over AUD2 billion (USD1.4 billion) in pharmaceuticals and medical devices annually. Among its firms is RNAi developer Benitec, a NASDAQ listed company that has licensed its technology around the world for indications including HIV, cancer, and chronic pain. The multibillion-dollar hearing technology company, Cochlear, has its global headquarters in Sydney. Sydney also is a manufacturing hub for many multinational companies, such as Virbac, Pfizer, MSD, Novartis, and GSK.

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Part three of our four-part spotlight on Australia. In this series of short articles, we profile Australia and three of its main cities for life sciences innovation: Melbourne, Brisbane, and Sydney.

Australia - Brisbane

 

Queensland, and its capital city Brisbane, are well known both in Australia and globally for their strengths in pre-farm gate technology, tropical health, and functional foods. Brisbane’s proximity to a large area of tropical cultivatable land lends itself to food and agribusiness companies, and its government support benefits biotech and health innovation through both policy and capital investment.

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Part two of our four-part spotlight on Australia. In this series of short articles, we profile Australia and three of its main cities for life sciences innovation: Melbourne, Brisbane, and Sydney.

Melbourne is globally recognised for its strengths in clinical trials, stem cell research and cancer therapies. Greater Melbourne includes 27 biotechnology research institutes, nine universities and seven teaching hospitals. Among the universities based here are the University of Melbourne and Monash University, ranked in the top 100 life science universities worldwide (Times Higher Education rankings).

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Part one of our four-part spotlight on Australia. In this series of short articles, we profile Australia and three of its main cities for life sciences innovation: Melbourne, Brisbane, and Sydney.

The latest Scientific American Worldview Scorecard 2015 ranked Australia number four in biotechnology in the world. Significantly, Scientific American commented that if ranking was based purely on productivity, Australia would rank number two in the world. The sector has become the largest high-technology exporter and is the largest manufacturing industry investor in R&D in Australia. Collaboration with public research institutes and universities is the norm and strongly supported by the government.

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Singapore, New Zealand, and Australia have been named as the world’s first, fourth, and fifteenth most attractive foreign investment nations by a US economic think tank.

The Milken Institute recently released its annual Global Opportunity Index, which ranks countries within a framework of costs and conditions of doing business. It is particularly policy focused but also considers economic variables. Most of the top positions are held by developed countries that are transparent and have long-term strategies in place to encourage investment.

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