New Zealand seeks ingredients start-ups from Europe

By Jess Halliday

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags New zealand Startup company Venture capital

Fresh air, agricultural expertise, research resources… and NZ$100m
(€48m) funding: BioPacificVentures is proposing an attractive
package to European and American functional food start-ups that are
prepared to relocate all or part of their businesses to New

With a mission to invest exclusively in life sciences, and especially in nutrition, prevention and agbiotech, the venture capitalist was set up in 2005 out of a collaboration between venture capital firm Direct Capital, venture capital manager Inventages and research institution AgResearch.

Executive director Howard Moore said that the fund is looking to make a string of investments of around US$3m to $6m - or even more in special cases. It is also open to co-investing with other partners.

The benefits of starting up in New Zealand are said to be manifold.

Georgina Langdale of New Zealand Trade and Enterprise told that some recent benchmarking studies have compared New Zealand as a biotechnology centre with others including Cambridge, Boston, Sydney and Shanghai.

The full results of these are not yet available, but Langdale said: "New Zealand is coming out really strong. The cost of setting up labs is a huge bonus."

A report from the World Bank entitled Doing Business in 2006​ ranked New Zealand as having the most business-friendly regulation in the world. This can be more cost effective for companies when applying for patents, for instance.

It is also ranked as fourth easiest country for ease of starting a business, behind Canada, Australia and US.

New Zealand has a strong crop of science graduates entering the work place, and has mechanisms in place to encourage their employment in the food sector.

For instance, The Riddet Centre draws upon talent from across New Zealand's Massey University, University of Auckland, University of Otago, as well as overseas institutes, to bring leadership in foods research to Australasia.

Not only does this mean that companies have a good pool of talent from which to recruit, but also, by being able to offer graduates employment in their field of choice, it could help stem the haemorrhaging of talent overseas.

Moreover, New Zealand has a number of Crown Research Institutes with which companies can partner over R&D - such as Hort Research, which specialises in developing new fruit varieties.

New Zealand has a strong track-record in dairy production, having been a leader in the international dairy industry for more than 120 years. Indeed it is home to one of the world's largest dairy company, Fronterra.

It makes sense, then, that an area of particular interest is dairy-derived ingredients.

"If you're developing a functional food based on dairy - or technology to service dairy production - there is logic to being where there is such a concentration of development activity,"​ said Moore.

New Zealand's economy is built on primary produce, but increasingly it is bolstering its core industries with creative and resourceful use of by-products as bioactive ingredients.

Prime examples of companies that have tapped into resources at hand are Keratec, which found a way to extract keratin from sheep's wool, and The Grape Seed Extract Company, which puts high-antioxidant waste from the country's wine industry to use.

Both of these have been amongst the New Zealand contingent at international ingredients trade shows in the past two years.

Langdale said: "New Zealand is becoming increasingly plugged in internationally, and the sector is enriched my more international linkages between scientists and companies."

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