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KiwiNet fosters innovation with two new appointments

KiwiNet has announced significant director and board observer appointments.

The company has appointed deep-tech champion Vignesh Kumar to its board of directors as an additional independent board member.

KiwiNet has also appointed Zoe Murphy as a board observer, a newly implemented role designed to foster capability and diversity within New Zealand’s research commercialisation governance and leadership.

The Kiwi Innovation Network (KiwiNet) is a group of 18 universities, Crown Research Institutes, an Independent Research Organisation and a Crown Entity.

They are working together to transform scientific discoveries into new products and services.

KiwiNet members represent a total combined research expenditure of more than $800 million and 80% of the publicly funded researchers in New Zealand.

Engineering and technology professional Vignesh Kumar has more than 12 years of experience in global technology design, manufacturing, and operations strategy across North America, East Asia, and the Asia Pacific.

Before returning to New Zealand in mid-2018, he worked for Apple Inc. at its US headquarters as one of its lead enclosure hardware managers.

In this role he was tasked with actively sourcing and scaling science and engineering anchored innovations centred on improving the engineering and manufacturability of Apple’s consumer products.

Prior experiences included business development at BHL Group in Papua New Guinea, and product design in neonatal respiratory support at Fisher & Paykel Healthcare.

Kumar earned an MBA from The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, as a Wharton and Kaiser Fellow and a Fulbright Science and Innovation Scholar, and a Bachelor of Engineering (Hons) degree in Biomedical Engineering and a Master of Engineering Studies (Hons) in Medical Device Design and Technologies from the University of Auckland.

On the appointment Kumar says, “KiwiNet has been central to fuelling the science innovation pipeline in New Zealand. Joining the KiwiNet Board is a unique opportunity to contribute to the venture landscape’s growth at a challenging yet exciting time.

"New Zealand is the most desirable place right now, and there is a confluence of opportunity for deep-tech companies.

"We’re seeing start-ups anchored in science and technology gain velocity and entrepreneurs grow high impact global companies supported by a vibrant innovation ecosystem - which KiwiNet has hugely impacted."

He says, “Over the past decade, KiwiNet has championed scientific discoveries and the researchers and commercialisation professionals behind them and deployed significant PreSeed investment into promising Kiwi technologies.

"This has helped create numerous new ventures and encouraged a broader range of early-stage investors in science and technology companies. The opportunity from here is to scale up this success for the benefit of all New Zealanders.”

Kumar is very involved in the local early-stage ecosystem. He also sits on the Return on Science investment committees and is an active venture investor in hardware-enabled software, deep tech, and health technology companies, via his role as a partner at venture capital firm Global from Day 1 (GD1).

KiwiNet has also appointed its inaugural board observer, Zoe Murphy, strategic relationships manager at the Health Research Council of New Zealand.

Murphy earned a Bachelor of Technology in Biomedical Sciences (Hons) from the University of Auckland and has 20 years of experience in research and innovation across public and commercial environments.

This includes biomedical research laboratories, research management organisations, and research and innovation strategy and policy.

Murphy says, “I’m honoured to be KiwiNet’s first board observer. I’m passionate about research and innovation and its potential to create positive and transformative change for Aotearoa New Zealand.

"KiwiNet plays a key role to help realise this potential, so I feel privileged to be actively contributing to their mahi. It is also a unique opportunity for me to learn from extremely experienced directors and participate in Board discussion and processes without the usual barriers to entering governance positions.

"Bringing different perspectives to the table matters to the conversation and the outcome - I look forward to adding a social lens to research innovations and the broader impact they create in the world.”

On the appointments, KiwiNet chair Ngaio Merrick says, “Now more than ever, we need to accelerate emerging deep-tech start-up companies and research discoveries that offer new solutions to big global challenges.

"This is KiwiNet’s core purpose and focus – and will help New Zealand build a more diverse and prosperous post-COVID economy."

He says, "We’re delighted Vignesh is joining the KiwiNet Board at this critical time.

"He has spent the entirety of his career focused on commercialising and scaling science anchored innovations and brings unique global business experience, a rich engineering and technology background and a passion for deep-tech and commercialisation.”

Merrick says, “To help create lasting economic, environmental, community and social value from publicly funded science innovation, we need to prioritise and foster diversity of thought and perspective at all levels, including on boards.

"We’re delighted to have Zoe around the KiwiNet board table, not just to observe and gain insights but to participate actively and voice her opinions. We’ll benefit from the broad perspective Zoe brings, and she’ll develop valuable governance skills that will fast-track her for future roles.”