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Callaghan Innovation urges firms to apply for R&D internship grants

03 Sep 2019
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Callaghan Innovation says that New Zealand businesses still have time to snap up valuable R&D talent before the window of opportunity closes on September 6.

Callaghan Innovation’s R&D Experience Grants enable businesses to take on undergraduate or postgraduates in the areas of technology, business, design, engineering, and science.

The fully funded 10-week programmes provide the opportunity for students to gain valuable work experience and the change to put their theoretical training towards practical projects.

Callaghan Innovation’s CFO Matt Kenny says businesses also benefit from a dose of fresh thinking, technical skills, and so much more.

“Many of these students are developing skills that are highly sought after across a number of industries. We’ve got students working on robotics, big data, artificial intelligence (AI), software development and pharmaceuticals,” says Kenny.

“For start-ups especially, this can be a highly valuable resource, supporting anything from technical product work through to competitive market scans. For larger companies it might provide the confidence to finally kick off a long-awaited backburner project or get their data ready for machine learning and AI.”

While more businesses have applied for grants this year compared to last year, but there are still plenty more businesses that could apply.

More than 280 Kiwi companies had R&D Experience Grants approved last year, for over 660 students to boost capability and capacity in their research and development teams.

In 2018 most R&D Experience Grant student placements were in Auckland (282 students), followed by Canterbury (136), Wellington (66) and Waikato (58).

“We would love to see more applications from the regions and see these grants boosting the R&D capacity of businesses in these areas,” says Kenny.

“We are seeing larger companies integrate it with their recruitment projects - especially since there are skill shortages in these areas. All the good students are generally snapped up after graduation and this is a great way to get on the front foot and find a great fit.”

Rocketspark, Serko and Douglas Pharmaceuticals are just three of the companies that have applied for grants in the past.

Rocketspark director Grant Johnson says the interns, who were studying software engineering, were smart students.

 “In their ten weeks with us they created a prototype of a tool that will help small business owners with their search engine optimisation. There’s still a way to go to get it into a commercial project, but the Experience Grant was a really valuable kick-start to a project with high potential and provided the impetus to do some challenging research.”

Following the internship, one of the students joined Rocketspark’s development team, working one day a week while he completes his studies.

Johnson says the feedback from their student interns was that the project helped to identify the areas of R&D they enjoyed and focused them on their studies and likely career choices.

Both students or recent graduates are considered for the placements, and eligible companies must have an active R&D programme (an R&D budget and R&D staff). Applications are now open until 06 September at 12pm. More information is available on Callaghan Innovation’s website.