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Start-up investor to market uni research


M's chief entrepreneur. Jim Whalley, left, with Tom Kenyon. who is launching a new fund focused on advanced manufacturing. (Picture: Naomi Jellico.)

Getting university research out into the world and commercialised will be the focus of a new fund being launched in South Australia.

Tom Kenyon, a former state minister for manufacturing, innovation and trade and now general manager of start-up and scale-up investor Innovyz, has launched the Innovyz Ventures fund, hoping to raise at least $10m from wholesale and sophisticated investors, including organisations such as superannuation funds. The idea is to take research out of universities, where it has been developed by people who don't necessarily want to commercialise it themselves, and put it in the marketplace.

"We're looking for research in the advanced materials and manufacturing space, and we're looking for researchers who don't want to run a business," Mr Kenyon said. "We create the business, we run, and that's what the fund is for." Mr Kenyon said once the companies were created and operational, the fund would also look to inject follow-on seed funding into them. "And, thirdly, we'd look to invest in companies that have already been created during the Innovyz programs," he said. "We're looking to raise a minimum of $10m but some-where between $20m and $30m is our target." Mr Kenyon said there were good tax concessions associated with investment in the fund that, after 12 months returns on investments in the fund, were tax-free. He said the fund would suit investors keen on early-stage companies but who would prefer to spread their risk across a We create the business, we run, and that's what the fund is for. It would be a closed fund, suiting investors with a longer investment horizon. "Since 2009, the internal rate of return of the manufacturing programs has been 40 per cent," Mr Kenyon said.

Innovyz currently has interests in the listed 3D printing companies Amaero and Ti-tomic and Adelaide-based welding technology company K-Tig. Other companies that have been involved with Innovyz include a spin-out company from the chemical engineering department at the University of Adelaide, focused on high-quality activated carbon, and geofencing technology firm Bluedot. "There are literally in the billions of dollars being spent every year on research around Australia, and we're always trying to find a way of connecting universities and businesses to get some of this research out there into the market," Mr Kenyon said. "We came to the conclusion that the best way to do that is to create spin-out companies out of the university, so you automatically have a relationship between the university and the company."

Mr Kenyon said this was much simpler than trying to take research and introduce it to industry or an existing company. SA's chief entrepreneur, Jim Whalley, who has been a keen advocate of more sources of capital for investing in start-ups and scale-ups in SA, said it was a great initiative. "Innovyz have been flying under the radar building a really solid track record," he said. "As Australia looks to improve its sovereign manufacturing capabilities, Innovyz is one those companies we want to see supported."

Source: Published by The Adelaide Advertiser.

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