Vertus Energy and Biogest embark on European Plant Pilot Project

Vertus Energy is partnering with Biogest to demonstrate its BRIO solution at commercial scale in Europe.

The following includes excerpts  from Robin Whitlock (Renewable Energy magazine)

The pilot will begin in 2023 within the testing facility and move to the demonstration unit in 2024. This demonstration unit is the start of the BRIO commercialisation, showing investors and other potential partners that BRIO can be implemented at commercial scale.

This is the first step in achieving the transition to permanent renewable energy. Once commercially enabled, Europe will have an energy option that is domestically sourced and less vulnerable to price changes based on international politics and environmental change.

For households, this could mean cheaper energy bills that are less likely to fluctuate. With the ongoing energy crisis in Europe, this is a significant step forward for the implementation of more renewables in the energy mix and the decarbonisation of our energy matrix.

BRIO is an external modular unit that easily retrofits into existing anaerobic digesters and Vertus has proven in their industrial laboratory in New Zealand that BRIO delivers 60 percent more energy, 3 times faster from the same amount of feedstock processed.

Vertus’ Bio-Catalytic platform controls the bacteria behaviour inside the main anaerobic digestion tank to accelerate reaction speeds and production yield.

“Our new partnership with Vertus Energy will focus on enhancing existing plants to be more efficient and cost effective” added Georgi Kirov, Senior Sales Manager from Biogest. “BRIO aims to be the perfect retrofit option for biogas plant owners. It is being designed to easily retrofit into their existing plant and could be a game changer for the industry by improving the performance of waste in our plants. It’s exciting for me, as I have seen BRIO in their industrial laboratory in New Zealand and this partnership could lead to it performing at full scale.”

02 November 2022

 

 

 

 

Toku Eyes Launch Tool To Assess Heart Risk Through Retinal Scans in US

NZ -based AI firm hopes to be at more than 1,500 locations across the U.S. by 2025.

The following includes excerpts from Anastassia Gliadkovskaya (Fierce Healthcare)

Toku Eyes, a New Zealand-based healthcare AI company, is launching its tool that assesses heart risk through a retinal scan in the U.S.

The tool, called ORAiCLE, uses an AI platform to identify cardiovascular threats more accurately than existing risk calculators, the company claims. The platform recognizes subtle changes in aspects like blood vessels and pigmentation to identify a person’s risk of a stroke or heart attack in the next five years.

Many Americans with diabetes are at risk of long-term complications like heart disease and blindness. Early diagnosis is critical for mitigating morbidity, but diagnosis has historically been a challenge.

Since using a retinal camera and the AI software requires minimal training, it is more cost-effective and accessible, the company argues. The AI platform uses an image of the back of the eye to do its assessment. It then provides personalized health guidance or recommends a specialist referral. The company says the technology also works accurately with low-resolution images.

Toku Eyes is also aiming to launch a separate tool to detect blinding conditions in the U.S. by the end of this year, pending FDA approval. As part of its expansion to the U.S., the company is partnering with EyeCheq, a company Toku Eyes says is building out a network of self-service retinal image kiosks across the U.S. Another partner is Unified-Imaging, a cloud-based solution for capturing image data.

The company’s platform is currently used as part of diabetic screening services in the private and public sectors in New Zealand, according to its press release.

ORAiCLE is being released as a wellness device and therefore does not require FDA clearance, the company told Fierce Healthcare. This classification will also enable Toku Eyes to share cardiovascular risk data with payers to help improve the overall health of their members. Altogether, Toku Eyes hopes to be at more than 1,500 locations across the U.S. by 2025.

 31 May 2022

 

 

R&D Tax Incentive

R&D Tax Incentive: Public Statement from the deep technology start-up community in New Zealand on the Research and Development Tax Incentive (RDTI)

 

This public statement by Outset Ventures (formerly LevelTwo) is in relation to the Research and Development Tax Incentive (RDTI) and the recent end to Callaghan Innovation’s Growth Grant Scheme and subsequent transition of Research and Development (R&D) intensive companies to the RDTI scheme.

At Outset, we work with a significant number of R&D intensive, high-growth, deep technology companies operating in New Zealand, and have identified a number of challenges created by the transition to RDTI. Since 2018, we have been working with the early-stage deep tech community to understand how to mitigate these challenges and we have proposed four recommendations:

  • Enable companies on existing Growth Grants to delay transitioning to the RDTI until at least FY2023 (April 1st, 2023)
  • Ensure that companies transitioning to the RDTI are not impacted adversely through administrative overhead
  • Provide cashflow certainty for companies moving from a Growth Grant to the RDTI
  • Provide multi-year certainty on all R&D funding mechanisms for R&D intensive businesses

Presently none of these recommendations have been implemented, although we understand there is some work underway within certain agencies, but with uncertain timeframes on their implementation.

Biotelliga is grateful to have received a Callaghan Growth Grant that supported us to develop crop protection technologies that will reduce the use of synthetic pesticides in food production in NZ and around the world. Timelines from start-up to profitability in the AgBiotech sector are long (often ten years or longer) and significant investment is required, which can be sporadic. For companies like Biotelliga the regular in-year cash payments from the Growth Grant were a reliable source of ready funds that helped underpin and smooth-out funding from capital raising and other less consistent sources. In our view the RDTI as it is currently implemented – in particular the lack of pre-agreed in- year cash payment – is not a major incentive to the cashflow-focussed pre-profit tech companies that are most likely to be transformative in the economy and that need support the most. Damien Fleetwood – CEO – Biotelliga

The primary challenges faced by early-stage companies are the revenue difference between the Growth Grant and RDTI and the timing of payments. Both have a significant impact on cash-flow for early-stage companies, dramatically increasing the risk of failure. By way of example, the cash gap across those companies contributing to this statement is over $3m NZD per annum, caused by the cessation of Growth Grant Payments and the 12 to 18 months on timing for RDTI payments. The very real impacts of this cash gap in uncertain times are resulting in several outcomes including:

  • Delay or reduction of research spending that would have previously been undertaken or increased
  • Reduction in the ability to retain highly skilled staff, this is further impacted by the current border closures and reduced ability to bring in international talent.
    – Staff turnover within small, early-stage companies often also means as significant loss of intellectual property and know-how.
  • Strategically looking at where future research and development spending will occur, particularly where offshore opportunities may be.
    Increased pressure to raise additional capital, typically at lower valuations, as bank lending is typically unavailable due to the stage and risk profile of the companies

Outset again recommends:

  • Ensuring companies transitioning to the RDTI are not impacted adversely through administrative overhead
  • Providing cashflow certainty for companies moving from a Growth Grant to the RDTI
  • Providing multi-year certainty on all R&D funding mechanisms for R&D intensive businesses

“The funding from the Growth Grant was a valuable source of funding that underpinned Pictor’s other sources of funding. For example, it contributed to Pictor being able to put additional resources into the development of our SARS-Cov-2 (Covid-19) Antibody assay that has been patented internationally and is now being fast tracked in the US. This assay has the potential to play a major role in fighting the pandemic. It is unfortunate that the replacement RDTI scheme has not been implemented on a timely basis. This is negatively impacting on companies like Pictor that previously received Growth Grant funding. Urgency is required to implement this scheme and avoid further negative impacts on the R&D focused companies that need this to support their R&D.” Howard Moore – COO – Pictor

It is important to note that early-stage deep technology companies are a key part of New Zealand’s knowledge-based economy, are integral to supporting our nations vision of “building back better”, and are developing technologies to improve our environment, our health, and our food systems. The described impacts of this cash gap has knock-on impacts on how quickly New Zealand is able to adapt to climate change, create and adopt new health technologies, and increase productivity in a range of sectors. This is not just a business concern for a handful of companies, this is a macroeconomic concern.

“The RDTI has already had a significant negative impact on our cashflow. Where we were able to claim 20% of our substantial R&D spend under the Callaghan Innovation Growth Grant on a quarterly basis, we now claim only 15% on an annual basis. Cash flow is king for early stage R&D intensive companies like Mint and the new regime is extremely unhelpful- particularly in the context of a global pandemic.” Will Barker – CEO – Mint Innovation

Summary

Early-stage companies working in the deep technology space typically take years before they generate revenue or make a profit. Early-stage deep tech companies tend to have a singular focus on R&D and IP generation with significant overheads (a high R&D intensity) – much more so than larger companies engaged in R&D. Unlike larger companies, early stage companies often lack the financial resources to manage R&D cash flow so growth is supported by private investment and R&D grants provided by Callaghan Innovation and other agencies.

“It’s unacceptable that this regime has created two tier support for R&D. Businesses in a tax paying position are able to get immediate benefit from adjustments in provisional tax, while deep tech start ups, the companies that will be critical to solving NZ’s biggest problems, have to wait 12-18 months for the cash to come back to them. It’s illogical and wrong. Companies are now having to focus on capital raising activities, diverting time and resources away from valuable R&D activities. We risk losing world leading deep tech businesses offshore depending on the requirements of future investors”Nadine Williams – National R&D Director – PwC

By ending the Growth Grant Scheme without considering the cash flow implications, funding for R&D and IP-intensive companies to get to the next stage in their development is severely limited. This is particularly crucial because their time to profit is significantly longer than that of software or other digital technology companies. Yet these deep technology companies are a critical part of New Zealand’s knowledge-based economy and have significant growth and employment potential. We strongly urge Government to consider our recommendations as proposed.

“The quarterly cash flow provided by the Growth Grant, enabled businesses to ramp up R&D activities and create additional skilled and highly paid jobs. Callaghan Innovation previously advised that approximately 50% of Growth Grant recipients were not yet in a tax paying position so why doesn’t this regime provide the critical in year cash flow that we know is needed? Without in year cash payments this regime puts R&D businesses in a worse position than they were, and at a time where cash flow is so important to support NZ’s Covid recovery”Mat Rowe – Executive Director – Outset Ventures

Yours sincerely,
Mat Rowe – Executive Director
Outset Ventures Limited
40 Kenwyn Street
027 700 8119
mat@outset.ventures

02 December 2021

 

This comment is written on behalf of several early-stage deep technology companies operating in New Zealand and at Outset Ventures. The following companies support this statement:

Background 

Outset Ventures is a technology incubator and innovation precinct on the fringe of  Auckland’s CBD that provides physical space, incubation, funding and support for young  companies in the area of “deep tech.” In this context, deep technology is defined as  “technology that is based on tangible engineering innovations or scientific advances and  discoveries.” The companies that Outset supports are in a range of technological areas and  industries but primarily span clean technology, aerospace, medical technology and  biotechnology, agricultural technology, advanced manufacturing among others. 

It is important to differentiate between what is broadly considered “tech” companies and the  “deep tech” companies which Outset supports. “Tech” often encompasses software and  digital innovation companies, whereas “deep tech” is restricted to describing companies  which operate on the edge of science and engineering. The needs of these companies and  the timelines on which they operate differ substantially. Deep tech companies are often  heavily involved in generating, protecting and commercialising intellectual property (IP). 

The companies supported by Outset are typically pre-revenue and are heavily involved in  research and development activities, and thus “research and development intensive,” a term  used by MBIE and Callaghan Innovation to define the ratio of research spend against  revenue. Examples of companies that have resided within this innovation cluster include  Rocket Lab,LanzaTech and Mint Innovation, with current residents including Biotelliga,  Pictor, Dotterel Technologies, Avertana, Helico Bio, and Astrix. Outset currently incubates  eighteen companies engaged in research and development activities, with the vast majority  of their spend (approximately 80%) being on R&D. 

These companies are partially reliant on government funding, but fund much of the  operations of their companies primarily through private capital raising activities from local  and international investors. The Outset resident and portfolio companies have proven to be  highly successful in attracting investments with over US $500 million in capital secured to  date. Attracting capital into New Zealand to fund deep technology companies is challenging,  and due to ongoing COVID events and the benefits to enhance overseas investment through  government funding is a significant factor in attracting and de-risking foreign investment.  These benefits largely include Callaghan Innovation Getting Started Grants, Project Grants,  Experience Grants and Growth Grants, as well as the research and development loss tax  credit and similar schemes.

Venture Essentials Workshop Series

Intellectual Property for Deep Tech Startups

Earlier this month, Outset Ventures hosted its subsequent workshop in the ‘Venture Essentials workshop Series’ called Intellectual Property for Deep Tech Startups.

This dynamic workshop series brings together industry experts and experienced founders to give you a thorough breakdown of essential topics related to science and engineering ventures.

The workshop was co-presented by Dr. Will Barker (CEO and founder of Mint Innovation) and Jonathan Lucas (Partner at James & Wells).

This extensive 90-minute virtual workshop was specifically designed for the needs of early-stage science/engineering start-ups and entrepreneurs and covered the topics below.

  • What is IP?
  • Trade secrets
  • Patents
  • Patent searching
  • Patent application process
  • Example of patent
  • Novelty
  • Inventive step
  • Ownership of IP
  • FTO

About the Presenters

Dr. Will Barker

Founder and CEO of Mint Innovation. Will is passionate about commercialising new technologies through securing IP, capital-raising, and building high-performance teams. Originally an organic chemist (Ph.D. from Leicester University in the UK), Will has broad experience spanning the deep-tech ecosystem from founder to investor, from patent attorney to commercial ops. Over the last 15 years, Will has had the pleasure of working with some of New Zealand’s most innovative deep tech and “good for the world” cleantech companies.

Jonathan Lucas

Partner at James & Wells, New Zealand’s largest independent firm of intellectual property (IP) lawyers and patent attorneys. Jonathan provides strategic advice to many local and multinational companies on all aspects of intellectual property, particularly specialising in patents. His strong academic background in physics has formed the basis for his expertise across the medical technology, mechanical engineering, electronics, telecommunications, and software industries.

Stay tuned for more workshops in the Venture Essentials series in 2022!

Get in touch.

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