Callaghan Innovation national technology network manager for biotechnologies Kim Jordan says in last week’s NZBIO conference is anything to go by, the biotech industry here is ready to find its sweet spot.
NZBIO, the industry organisation for Biotechnology in New Zealand held its annual conference last week. Reflecting the refresh the organisation has undergone in the past 12 months, the conference was held outside Auckland for the first time – at Te Papa Tongarewa in Wellington. The theme of the conference was “Defining New Zealand’s Sweet Spot: Defining the landscape of New Zealand sweetspots – building value by connecting the parts” – a title that reflects perhaps the need for better connectivity and collaboration in our innovation ecosystem.
Callaghan Innovation CE Mary Quin gave the first key note address of the conference, setting the scene for the next few days.
She reflected on the strengths, weaknesses and potential of the biotechnology sector, and of course, Callaghan Innovation’s role in supporting biotechnology firms, ending with the assertion that Biotechnology is the revolution of the 21st century.
Mary pointed out the biotech revolution underway at present can be compared to the agricultural, industrial and digital revolutions and will be the most significant change of our lifetimes.
Needless to say this was well received by the audience!
The Callaghan Innovation session on “Finding your Innovation Sweetspot” was well attended by a mix of companies, researchers and students.
Iain Hosie from Revolution Fibres gave a great talk on the various Callaghan Innovation services his company has benefited from and strongly encouraged companies not already engaged to get on it.
The panel discussion with Iain Hosie, Margot Bethell (Bio Pacific Partners), Matt Rowe (BioConsortia, and nominee for Young Bioscientist of the Year) and Simon Yarrow (Callaghan Innovation) proved popular, with discussions around how our culture as New Zealanders helped and hindered our ability to commercialise innovation. I was especially pleased to see good student interaction in this part of the session, with a number of questions coming from Chiasma representatives.
A new-look, scaled-backed NZBIO Excellence Awards, presented at the awards dinner, were refreshingly short but sweet, with the Dinner MC Te Radar commenting “never have I flown so far to present so few awards”.
With just three awards up for grabs – all nominated and voted on by NZBIO members – the winners could genuinely said to be the cream of the crop of the New Zealand biotechnology sector.
Aroa Biosurgery (formerly Mesynthes) took out Company of the Year, Dr Nick Roberts (AgResearch) won Bioscientist of the Year, and Dr Shivali Gulab (Avalia Immunotherapies) rounded out the field with Young Bioscientist of the Year. Aroa and Avalia are both Callaghan Innovation clients, with Aroa initially hosted at the Gracefiled Innovation Quarter, and Avalia one of the inaugural recipients of a repayable technology start-up grant.
As far as finding our sweet spot goes – the two things I took away from the two day conference were that 1) collaboration, connections and relationships are going to be key for us to succeed on a world stage, and 2) that we know how to innovate, and now it is time to focus on commercialising our innovations.
Learning to work together as a city of 4 million to create value from our ideas and compete effectively against the world is critical for our success, not only in Biotechnology, but across all of our high value manufacturing and services sectors.