First it was incubators, now it's swimming pools.
The latter label is how the head of Wellington’s MediaLab R&D consortium describes the undertaking, to which the government granted $500,000 yesterday.
Chief executive Michael Gregg says it will be a “virtual swimming pool” for private-sector partners with innovations to explore, rather than a permanent or semi-permanent residence in more usual “incubator” style. Partners will dip in and out to partake of the cross-fertilisation of ideas, but will retain their own bases.
Nor will participation be limited to startups developing saleable ideas, Gregg says. Commercial companies which are pure users of IT could collaborate with the researchers and academics of the MediaLab to solve a problem affecting the IT and communications aspects of their own businesses.
One such example which lab staff were about to investigate at a hospital -- name and location unspecified -- was creation of a wireless “bed management” solution enabling patient and administrative information to be updated at the bedside or any point in the hospital.
Industry New Zealand has given MediaLab South Pacific funds to establish a permanent Wellington base from which it aims to unite commerce, tertiary institutions and research providers within a “community” supported by local and national government.
The MediaLab has existed as a plan and a “virtual organisation” of collaborating partners for about two years.
Current “strategic partners” are Victoria University, Massey University’s Wellington, Palmerston North and Albany campuses, Telecom, TelstraClear, Unisys New Zealand and the Wellington Regional Economic Development Agency, a branch of the regional council.
About a dozen other “industry and research partners” have already joined forces with the lab.
The priority areas of development are to a large extent dependent on partners’ priorities, Gregg says, but some basic “platforms” have been laid out for types of R&D.
Fixed wireless access systems using predominantly 802.11 (WiFi) comprise one such platform. “Show and tell,” exploring new ways of communicating and learning, is another. “Fun and games” uses new platforms and applications for the interactive game market as a “litmus test for new technologies”. Often gaming experiments with novel technologies long before mainstream business and other creative industries see the potential in them, Gregg says.
The last category is loosely described as “knowledge” and aims at “increasing our understanding of how knowledge can best be captured, stored, transferred, replicated, protected and fully destroyed”, the last a key aspect of security, says Gregg.
More particulars of the MediaLab’s structure and endeavours can be found at its website.