Kiwi research start-up sold to Clarivate Analytics

Wellington start-up Publons, which raised over $300,000 through accelerator Lightning Lab, has been acquired by Clarivate Analytics for an undisclosed sum.

The company aims to speed up research by bringing transparency, recognition, and training to peer review.
It has a community of more than 150,000 researchers who’ve added more than 800,000 reviews.

Publons also has partnerships with 26 of the top publishers in the world.

Publons co-founders Andrew Preston and Daniel Johnston started the company in 2012, taking it through Lightning Lab’s first accelerator programme in 2013.

Chairman Dave Moskovitz said the company had produced a significant return on investment, managing to grow quickly since its launch.

“Most companies would take maybe seven to 10 years to really turn into valuable companies so the fact that Publons were the first accelerator cohort in New Zealand and they’ve managed to turn around in four years is pretty amazing,” Moskovitz said.

“It’s a huge win for startups, their founders, and investors, as it validates that we can build companies of great value internationally from Wellington.

“There are a number of other companies that have come through accelerators so we can expect to see more great exits in years to come. This one happened particularly quickly.”

Clarivate said the acquisition would help address critical issues in the US$1.7 trillion ($2.4t) global research market, including fraud, lack of reproducibility in scientific research, inefficiencies and the ability to identify and understand top research.

The company has 14 staff including its co-founders, all of whom would continue to work for the business Moskovitz said.

First published in NZ Herald – 1st June 2017

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Web of Science owner buys up booming peer-review platform

Tags: Science, start-up

The owner of the vast science-citation database Web of Science — Clarivate Analytics — is buying up a firm that has gathered hundreds of thousands of peer-review records, in a deal that could lead to new ways of organizing scientific peer review and preventing peer-review fraud.

Clarivate, a US company, said on 1 June that it had acquired Publons, a New Zealand-based start-up firm that encourages scientists to share their peer review history online to help gain credit for their reviewing activity. More than 150,000 researchers have registered with Publons, and they have shared details of some 800,000 peer reviews on its site. Although many journals request anonymous peer review, Publons privately verifies reviews, and publicly lists the number of reviews that scientists have conducted with particular journals. The firm also provides training for peer reviewers and collects post-publication reviews.

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Peer review is essential to good science – it’s time to credit expert reviewers

Although expert evaluation of research papers and funding applications is still widely regarded as central to the quality control of research, publishers and funders have increasing difficulty getting academics to agree to spend time on what can often be an onerous, thankless task. In short, peer review has problems.

The strain on the system is due in part to worldwide growth in research activity, but also arises because there isn’t a universal mechanism for recognising or crediting people for serving as peer reviewers.

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NZ mission to the moon ready for blast off

New Zealand is ready to join the space race, with Kiwi start-up Rocket Lab on the brink of launching a rocket to the moon.

After signing a partnership with United States outfit Moon Express in 2015 on a deal to send three rockets to the moon, Peter Beck – who founded Rocket Lab in 2006, said the last major technical questions had now been answered.

Beck said the ambitious project was almost ready to go and test launches were slated for the coming months from the Mahia Peninsula, on the east coast of the North Island between Napier and Gisborne.

“We recently qualified the first stage of the vehicle – this was the last major technical milestone ahead of the first test flight. We’re currently completing various final checks and working through international launch licensing,” Beck told the Herald from the US, where he is on a routine working visit meeting customers and other industry professionals.

“Rocket Lab has three test launches planned in the coming months followed by several commercial missions – Moon Express is not the first commercial mission. We’ll be making further announcements about this once the test flight phase is complete.

“Dates of the commercial launches will be announced following the completion of the test flight programme.”

Moon Express, a Silicone Valley-backed company which has completed a $28 million funding drive, wants to mine valuable resources on the moon, where it is believed there could be trillions of dollars-worth of precious metals and gases.

The San Francisco outfit is also chasing the extremely lucrative Google Lunar XPRIZE – a competition to land a privately funded spacecraft on the moon, travel 500 metres and transmit high-definition video and images back to Earth.

The competition involves 16 teams from all over the world battling for a $40 million prize purse.

“Moon Express have achieved several significant milestones in the last year. Notably, they have gained permission to be the first private company to travel beyond Earth’s orbit – this enables them, and others, to focus on space exploration – particularly of the moon, asteroids and Mars,” he said.

“Our team is heavily focused on the test flight programme – we have a comprehensive qualification process that each vehicle goes through ahead of a launch. Once that is complete, we’ll look to moving the first vehicle down to Mahia for the test flight.

“It’s certainly an exciting time for not only Rocket Lab but also the growing New Zealand space industry.”

FLY ME TO THE MOON:

• The moon is 384,403km from Earth.
• Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket has a range of 500,000km.
• Electron costs $6.8m.
• The components of Electron’s engine are all 3D printed.
• The world-first, battery-powered rocket engine is named the “Rutherford” engine – named after iconic Kiwi physicist Ernest Rutherford.

First published NZ Herald – 19th January 2017

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Man of science honoured for service to Manawatu business industry

Chemist, businessman, and philanthropist Dr Richard Garland has been awarded the 2016 Lifetime Service Award at the Manawatu Business Awards. Reporter Paul Mitchell spoke to him about his long career at New Zealand Pharmaceuticals (NZP).
NZP is, in many ways, Dr Richard Garland’s life’s work.
One of the company’s first employees, he rose through the ranks to become its managing director, and was integral in guiding NZP into the Manawatu success story it is today.

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Man of science honoured for service to Manawatu business industry

Chemist, businessman, and philanthropist Dr Richard Garland has been awarded the 2016 Lifetime Service Award at the Manawatu Business Awards. Reporter Paul Mitchell spoke to him about his long career at New Zealand Pharmaceuticals (NZP).
NZP is, in many ways, Dr Richard Garland’s life’s work.
One of the company’s first employees, he rose through the ranks to become its managing director, and was integral in guiding NZP into the Manawatu success story it is today.

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Minister Chagger issues a call to action on women entrepreneurship in Canada and announces $50 million to help businesswomen access capital

Women entrepreneurs from across Canada gather to talk about growing their businesses and accessing new markets
November 9, 2016 – Toronto, Ontario – Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada
Today, the Honourable Bardish Chagger, Minister of Small Business and Tourism, is hosting the Canadian Women’s Entrepreneurship Conference in Toronto. The Minister invited businesswomen from across the country to come together to share ideas on how more Canadian women business owners can be globally successful. Addressing a crowd of over 200 inspiring women entrepreneurs and the organizations that support them, the Minister issued a call to action to increase the number of women starting and running their own businesses.

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Labour targets ICT as second largest economic contributor

A Labour-led government would target the ICT sector to be New Zealand’s second largest contributor to the economy by 2025, believing it is a job-rich source of growth for a nation of small businesses.
While the precise definition of what constitutes ICT is up for debate, the party believes it currently sits somewhere between the third and fourth largest sector, behind tourism and the dairy and wine industries.
The party’s finance spokesman, Grant Robertson, unveiled the target when launching the results of the party’s two year ‘Future of Work Commission’ at its annual conference in Auckland over the weekend, unveiling a raft of proposals to improve intellectual property protection for small and medium-sized tech businesses, infuse schools and communities with digital learning opportunities, and a shake-up for innovation, science, and university research funding.

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New Zealand Innovation Awards celebrates most successful homegrown trailblazers

The New Zealand Innovation Awards 2016 winners were announced last night, recognising the cream of the crop across 11 industry categories and 10 business disciplines including technology, science, marketing and agri-business.

The Awards attracted more than 700 entrepreneurs, innovators, businesspeople and investors at the SKY City Convention Centre last night. 21 winners and 19 highly commended awards were handed out on the night to companies creating the most ‘game-changing’ innovations.

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Callaghan Stakeholder Advisory Group appointments

Science and Innovation Minister Steven Joyce today announced the appointments of Stefan Korn and Andrew Hamilton to the Callaghan Innovation Stakeholder Advisory Group.

Callaghan Innovation is the government agency tasked with encouraging more research and development activity by businesses across New Zealand’s science and technology sector.

“These new appointments both bring extremely useful skills and insights to the advisory group and ensure Callaghan remains well connected with its stakeholders,” Mr Joyce says.

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Twelve Questions: Alexei Drummond

An inspirational story about the sort of impact angel investment can have and the incredible people who are making a difference because of it!

Biologist Alexei Drummond has designed computer software that’s transformed the study of biology worldwide. The 39-year-old University of Auckland professor recently became the youngest fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand.

1 Did you grow up with science?

Dad’s a quantum physicist and mum’s an artist. They met at Harvard ” he’s a Kiwi and she’s American. Of their four children, two are biologists and two are musicians ” we’re all creative.

2 When did you learn to programme computers?

When I was 8, Dad bought me a Commodore 64. He was living in a tiny flat in the city after separating from mum. Back then there was no mouse or internet, just a blinking cursor on a blue screen. I began typing in pages of code from computer magazines without really knowing what they meant, hoping to be able to play a game by the end of the weekend. Eventually I was recognising commands that cropped up again and again and began modifying the code to change the games. I became convinced a computer could do anything if only it was programmed the right way. Genetic engineering and cloning naturally appealed to me. As an undergraduate I was determined to learn how to reprogram myself to live as long as possible. I wrote sci-fi and really wanted to find out what would happen in the future.
3 You’ve been in the news lately with your study using mobile phone data to track how the flu virus spreads – how did you get into that?

I’m an evolutionary biologist and what’s nice about viruses is they evolve a million times faster than humans so you can see evolution occurring. Influenza in two years will be as different from today as humans are from chimpanzees. Every winter a new flu arrives in New Zealand on a plane or a boat. We’re trying to understand how it spreads. The H1N1 pandemic in 2009 occurred mainly in NZ’s main centres the first year and mainly in the regions the next, which is peculiar – you’d expect it to go everywhere the first time – so that suggests some complexities. Our initial research shows it’s multiple events that set off parallel outbreaks with significant differences in strains between regions. Knowing where and how fast a virus like flu spreads will be useful if a more lethal virus arrives.

4 How will you use computer software to study the flu’s spread?

Mobile phone data shows us how many people move between areas and how close together they get. We also have rich genetic data on the flu virus which evolves so rapidly we can identify where and when each mutation occurred. If we can write software that puts these two sets of data together in the right way we should get a lot of predictive power.

5 How did you get into making software for biologists?

When I started my PhD in the biology department 16 years ago, I was almost the only one who could program a computer. I was surprised they didn’t have easy-to-use software for the kinds of operations they needed to do – like Excel for biologists. They were doing it all manually and making errors every time they had to convert data between formats. It was terrible.

6 What’s been your most important contribution to science so far?

Creating the scientific software BEAST which is used for data analysis by thousands of biologists worldwide to publish groundbreaking research. I developed the ideas and did the early programming during my PhD here at the University of Auckland and then went to Oxford and worked with Andrew Rambaut to co-create BEAST. Since our paper was published, that software’s been cited in something like 10,000 different studies. It’s free for all scientists to use.

7 What does your company Biomatters do?

Biomatters develops software to sell to pharmaceutical companies, bio-techs and universities. It is used for data management and visualisation for problems including genetics, ancestry, ecology, conservation, population studies and infectious diseases. Every Top 100 university in the world has our licences.

8 Was it hard to set up a company?

I couldn’t get research funding to develop the software because although it supports science it’s not actually research. I got very depressed until an entrepreneurial friend of mine pitched it to an Auckland investment group called Ice Angels. The first couple of years were hard. We were terrible at sales and marketing so it was convincing one scientist at a time. There’s no way I could’ve built that software in an academic environment. There’s not the motivation to make the customer experience smooth and effortless. What I love most about our company is we’re sending high-value products to the other side of the world at almost no cost to the environment. You never hear about the “knowledge economy” in New Zealand anymore. It seems like we just want to fit in as many cows as we can.

9 Is New Zealand looking after its scientists?

New Zealand has a high number of scientists per capita but we invest two or three times less per scientist than comparable countries. There’s been a huge sea change in the approach to science funding in the past 10 years, requiring research to demonstrate economic benefits to New Zealanders. World-class scientists value being able to pursue the most important problems in the world regardless of where they’re based. If they can’t solve them here, they’ll leave and New Zealand will miss out on the spillover benefits. Small advanced economies that [prioritise] science research like Scandinavia and Singapore do way better than us.

10 Why do you stay in New Zealand?

So my son can grow up with wide open spaces, beautiful beaches, bush walks and hiking in the mountains. I’m also excited to be launching a new Centre of Computational Evolution here this year.

11 Are you religious?

Humans aren’t going to last forever, no species ever has. It’s hard for me to believe there’s anything afterwards. I’m a collection of atoms that are going to become dirt and stardust. What’s beautiful about science is that you’re adding a little bit of knowledge that will survive you. Even if it’s wrong, it’s a step that you’re taking for the rest of humanity.

12 Do you have fears for the future of our planet?

For many people the “truth” of economic growth being good is stronger than science, but in the natural world we’ve seen a million times that when you grow exponentially for too long, you get a massive crash. I find it disgusting that in my generation or the next, humans may precipitate a mass extinction the likes of which have not been seen for 65 million years. I’m also bewildered by how we can call ourselves intelligent when billions of our fellow humans live in abject poverty.

First published on nzherald.co.nz 28th January 2016

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Kiwinet Commercialisation Award Finalists Announced

Finalists have been selected for the second annual KiwiNet Research Commercialisation Awards designed to celebrate success within New Zealand’s universities and Crown Research Institutes.

Innovationsfrom finalists include the Springfree™ trampoline, a rare pharmaceutical ingredient generating major export returns, titanium technologiesincluding 3D printed animal implants, pasture meters, artificial muscle technologies, precision seafood harvesting, eradicating bovine tuberculosis, controlling insects with sex, new vanilla products, and a wireless network partnership.

“The Awards celebrate the tremendous work of research organisations turning clever science into commercial value. Our 2014 finalists are some of the best at this, developing a new wave of exciting innovation that will create new companies, products and servicesto grow our economy,” says KiwiNet General Manager Dr Bram Smith.

“Many exciting stories of research commercialisation success are not well known. By putting the spotlight on the people and research organisations changing the commercialisation landscape in New Zealand, KiwiNet aims to inspire others to similar success,” says Smith.

The 2014 KiwiNet Research Commercialisation Awards finalists are:
AJ Park Commercialisation Collaboration Award
– Eradicating bovine tuberculosis with TBfree New Zealand, (Landcare Research and TBfree)
– Titanium Technologies New Zealand (TiTeNZ), (University of Waikato, Callaghan Innovation, GNS Science, University of Auckland, the Titanium Industry Development Association (TIDA) and a number of industry partners)

Researcher Entrepreneur Award
– Associate Professor Iain Anderson, StretchSense – entered by UniServices, University of Auckland
– Alistair Jerrett, Seafood Technologies, Plant & Food Research Minter Ellison Rudd Watts Research and Business Partnership Award
– Heilala Vanilla, entered by Massey University
– Controlling Insects with Sex, entered by Plant & Food Research
– Precision SeafoodHarvesting, entered by Plant & Food Research
– Wireless Network Partnership (University of Canterbury and Tait Communications), entered by

University of Canterbury Commercial Deal Award

– Springfree™ Trampoline, entered by University of Canterbury
– Kifunensine, entered by Glycosyn, Callaghan Innovation
– C-Dax Pasture Meter and Massey University’s Centre for Precision Agriculture, entered by Massey University

The BNZ Supreme Award will be presented to the entry which demonstrates overall excellence in all core areas of research commercialisation.

The KiwiNet Awards judging panel comprises Dr Andrew Kelly, Executive Director at BioPacificVentures, Sharon Hunter, one of New Zealand’s best-known business women and Director of Hunter Powell Investment Partners, professional director and ex-Angel Association Chairman Dr Ray Thomson, and director and executive advisor Helen Robinson, the founding CEO of TZ1.Lead judge Dr Andrew Kelly says, “It’s great to see another strong new set of applicants this year,
demonstrating that innovation is continuous in this country. These innovations are important as the next generation of the science and technology successes our economy is now seeing like Xero, A2 and Pacific
Edge.”

Kelly adds that the bigger pool of entries has been stimulated by the expansion of KiwiNet, ‘which is now the driving force in research commercialisation in New Zealand.’

Paul Stocks, Deputy Chief Executive of MBIE’s Science, Skills and Innovation Group, says MBIE supports KiwiNet’s collaborative approach to commercialising innovative research. “Research commercialisation is vitally important for New Zealand, as it can be a major driver of economic growth. KiwiNet is helping to
create greater commercial outcomes from our publicly-funded research, which will benefit all New Zealanders.”

The Kiwi Innovation Network (KiwiNet) (www.kiwinet.org.nz), is a consortium of 13 universities, Crown Research Institutes and a Crown Entity established to boost commercial outcomes from publicly funded research. KiwiNet partner organisations include WaikatoLink, Plant & Food Research, Otago Innovation Ltd, Lincoln University, AUT Enterprises, AgResearch, University of Canterbury, Callaghan Innovation, Viclink, Landcare Research, Cawthron Institute, ESR and NIWA. Principal support is provided by the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment (MBIE).

The Awards are the pinnacle of KiwiNet activities designed to build awareness and inspire research commercialisation success. Sponsorship support is provided by BNZ, Minter Ellison Rudd Watts, AJ Park, MBIE and Sciencelens photography.

BNZ director – value chain Jason Lewthwaite says New Zealand is increasingly recognised for its innovation, design and engineering which creates a huge opportunity for boutique products and services in overseas markets.

“The early stage innovation commercialisation that KiwiNet fosters combined with market contacts and experienced business partners such as banks and business organisations will allow New Zealand businesses to bring valuable new products and services to niche markets internationally.”All finalists will deliver a presentation in the final stage of judging on 11 June in Auckland. Winners will be announced at a reception that evening.

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Lead Partners

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AANZ Summit Sponsors

Callaghan Innovation “UniServices” Kiwinet “Spark”