"Bring it on" to entrepreneurial centres of excellence, says Dean

03 December 2010

The University of Auckland Business School head Professor Greg Whittred is welcoming calls from an entrepreneurial report out today to establish specialist national entrepreneurial and marketing centres of excellence at the School.

Dean Whittred says whilst the School already has a strong entrepreneurial eco-system that has produced scores of innovative and successful new national and international businesses in the past decade, the faculty is ready to welcome and absorb alongside its other offerings the New Zealand Institute report's recommendations.

"Subject to adequate funding, we can see real merit in the idea, so our reaction is 'bring it on'," Professor Whittred says.

"This School has been building up its capability in the past 10 years, and is now considered the premier educational facility for innovation and entrepreneurship in New Zealand.

"It is commonsense to base the centres of excellence here, and we are ready to take up the challenge and enrich the top quality offerings we already provide to our students."

The New Zealand Institute discussion paper, Plugging the Gap: An Internationalisation Strategy, says a full-time entrepreneurship training programme should be available at Masters level, and says the logical choice of location for a facility of this kind, along with a marketing centre, is The University of Auckland's Business School.

Professor Whittred says the School already has well-established activities to support entrepreneurship. These include student-led entrepreneurial organisations Spark and Chiasma; NZ Leadership Institute; The ICEHOUSE; The UABS Entrepreneurs' Challenge; and several national research centres which operate within its eco-system and could accommodate the new excellence centre.

When the School designed and implemented an entrepreneurial ethos a decade ago, it realised that growth required more than an expansion of high-quality science and technology, and creative industries, he says.

"Growth also rests on an understanding of how discovery, innovation and creative ideas can be generated, exploited and brought to market through both new and existing enterprises," Professor Whittred says.

"By helping demystify the nature of commercialisation, and helping researchers and students feel more comfortable with it, the School’s business community - through sponsorship, guest lecturing, mentoring, internship s and experiential learning - is nurturing a new breed of New Zealand innovators and entrepreneurs.

"Success feeds success, and we have through this spirit of innovation been responsible for the establishment of 72 start-up companies, raised more than $50 million in funding, sold products into 22 countries and created more than 230 jobs during the past eight years," Professor Whittred says.

In that time, PhD student numbers have increased 67%, and research masters students by 43%.

"You can teach the processes, but true entrepreneurial talent has to be inspired and motivated," Professor Whittred says. "Entrepreneurship is more than just an activity, it is a state of mind, and must be coupled with a strong extra-curricular programme and supportive infrastructure."

To produce graduates and postgraduates, and to "retrofit" others already in the workforce with the relevant knowledge and skills, the Business School is presently redesigning and expanding its existing portfolio of offerings and introducing new undergraduate and postgraduate programmes in innovation and entrepreneurship, and in the commercialisation of research.

Professor Whittred says funding from non-Government sources will be crucial to establishing any potential centres of excellence, and the School’s close liaison with business benefactors will ensure interest in establishing new facilities is strong.