by Dennis E. Powell
Start with a few dozen eager college students and a substantial body of cutting-edge intellectual property effectively trapped in an academic environment. Add an imaginative idea to use the students to turn the IP into successful enterprises. The result is Powerhouse Ventures' "Venture Out" program, the winner of NBIA's 2011 Incubator Innovation Award.
Located in Christchurch, New Zealand, Powerhouse sought a method of determining which discoveries made by the 2,000 researchers in two nearby universities and other local research institutions had commercial potential and what the applications might be. Incubator companies could then form market products based on the researchers' discoveries and inventions. At the same time, researchers could be exposed to the incubator and to the idea of turning their academic work into businesses.
The innovative public-private partnership couples incubator staff and services with university research and outstanding students to increase incubator deal flow, expedite commercialization and train the next generation of entrepreneurs. Two separate weeklong boot camps, offered during university breaks, make up the core of the program – a market assessment boot camp and an Innovation Challenge boot camp. Each boot camp typically serves 20 students working in teams of four. Several Webinars and student scholarship projects round out the program. Lincoln University in Canterbury supports the NZ$20,000 program budget.
Keywords: venture capital, angel investors/network, business financing, youth incubation, capital access
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