Tech NZ helps innovators with millions

Christchurch-based Pulse Data International has received another $400,000 of taxpayers' money to develop products for the vision-impaired.

Christchurch-based Pulse Data International has received another $400,000 of taxpayers' money to develop products for the vision-impaired.

The cash injection from Technology New Zealand follows other government funding that helped Pulse Data create a world-first portable note-taker for the blind.

The funding comes as the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology gave Innovative Technology Commendations to Pulse Data and two other Kiwi firms. However, the commendations pale into insignificance compared to the $32 million funding available from Technology New Zealand (www.technz.co.nz) for Kiwi innovators.

Pulsedata (www.pulsedata.com) has received a total $580,000, SouthFresh (southfresh.co.nz) of Auckland received $305,000 and Camsensor Technologies $80,000.

Pulse Data project manager Chris Glenn says the money was given in three stages. First, $25,000 for a technology assessment for the BrailleNote product, and then $125,000 Technology for Business Grow (TBG) grant for a more detailed evaluation. More recently, the remainder of the money was awarded to develop a new secret product that can magnify images, for use in CCTVs and for poorly-sighted people.

Glenn says TechNZ provides a template for applications relating to the commercial and technical aspects of projects, but applications are time-consuming. "You have to be committed to doing it. It is not a five-minute exercise. We probably spent 100 man hours on it," he says.

"The first two grants, the technology assessment Grant and TBG grant were pivotal to BrailleNote. The product has been extremely successful and put us on the map," he says.

Glenn says if firms have approriate projects, they should apply. "Not everybody finds it easy, you have to have the discipline to sit down and have a well thought-out proposal," he says.

At SouthFresh, chief fishmonger Toby Warren says the $305,000 turned his business from a fishmonger to a B2B e-commerce company supplying the fish, forestry and timber markets. Southfresh applied for the money two years ago, receiving it some months later, and launching the software six months ago. “It was a lengthy and disciplined process,” says Warren.

“TechNZ isn’t interested in handing out money where it won’t have the desired result or where they are not confident the company has done sufficient preparatory work.

“At first go, we probably had not done enough preparation, but with help from their guys we did. We did a proof of concept and proved the project was possible. Then we went back and used the money for the research. Without it, we would not have got the project started or use it to convince other companies to help us commercialise our product,” he says.

Pete Bethune of CamSensor (www.camsensor.com) says his firm applied for funding a year ago and invoiced TechNZ in October to develop hi-tech cameras that assess whether products are faulty.

“We were going to do the project anyway but the money helped with out cashflow. Having the TechNZ funding allowed us to expedite the development further,” says Bethune.

“TechNZ were pretty good to deal with. We got a consultant to help with the forms. There were a few, but nothing excessive,” he says.

Bethune too recommends other innovators should apply for funding, but warns: "They are not interested so much if it is for the same product everyone else has, but if it’s something new, to give you a real edge, then go ahead.”

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