What better way to get an inside look into the research commercialisation industry than to talk to the people practising it in our own backyard. In this edition we meet Stephen Lorimer. Stephen is Senior Commercialisation Manager at Viclink. Viclink helps researchers at Victoria University of Wellington transform their discoveries into products or services that have real benefit to society. It can help test, protect and develop an idea, optimising its chances of success, before launching it into the world where it can do the most good.
How did you get into this area of work and where did you begin your career?
Many years ago I went to Otago Uni to do a chemistry degree with some management in it. Not easy back then. I got hooked on research and focused on that. After over 10 years my interest in business and management drew me into the Business Development side and then into team and company leadership but always at the interface between science and business.
Tell us about some exciting projects you have been involved with.
There have been a lot over the years ranging from feta cheese to black truffles production, production and sale of a biological agrichemical, production of ice cream containing a probiotic. Now in my current role I get to work with some great people in areas as diverse as pharmaceutical development and high temperature superconductors.
I love research commercialisation because….
It combines my interests in research and business and offers opportunity to think strategically. Its pretty interesting too.
What one thing could be done to improve commercialisation in New Zealand?
I still think we have work to do in getting researchers to understand the game they are playing in their research and allowing this to help shape some of the research they do so that they are more ready for commercialisation. It is a willingness to engage in the discussion on how a project could get to market and then recognize how some aspects of the project can be modified to shorten or simplify this pathway.
What is your favourite quote?
“Retain faith that you will prevail in the end, regardless of the difficulties, and at the same time confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.” — James Stockdale. Which I came across in the book Good to Great by Jim Collins. It has served me well in both business and research environments.
What technology would you love to have been involved with over the past 10 years?
I think the story of the survival and then thriving of the New Zealand Kiwifruit industry post Psa is one of our great science success stories. How science capability and technology was mobilized to save an industry and deliver and new cultivar that is taking the industry to new levels and has proved the value of breeding to the industry.
If you could witness any event past, present or future, what would it be?
The time in the future when New Zealand is recognised as a leader in research commercialisation that transforms the local economy.