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Callaghan awards $32m in R&D grants

Read the original article in the NBR or in the NZ Herald 3 October 2014

Callaghan Innovation has awarded a further $32 million over three years to 22 high tech companies under the Research and Development Growth Grants scheme.

The latest companies come from a wide range of industries from aviation to horticulture and include two companies that floated in the past year - online travel software company Serko and software company GeoOp.

Serko said it had been awarded up to $4.2 million, which it will use to help fast-track a number of products including Serko Mobile. Serko said since launching in 2007, R&D grants had helped to develop new solutions for the energy and resource sector in Australia.

"It is pleasing that the government's commitment to a hi-tech, hi-growth economy is enabling companies like Serko to run faster and continue developing world-leading technology at pace," said Serko chief executive Darrin Grafton.

GeoOp said it had received a grant of up to $1.1 million over three years and it will use the money to innovate faster and service more customers globally. R&D had been key to the company since its inception in 2009, said CTO Jamie West.

Vadacom, which has developed a mobile-friendly cloud phone system, also won a $100,000 R&D grant to help develop more languages and sell it further afield than its current 500 customers in New Zealand and Australia. Along with the grant, the nine-year-old company secured $1 million from private equity investor Nightingale Partners, which has put Aaron Ridgway and Lindsay Phillips in as chief executive and board chairman, respectively. Former ceo and co-founder Igor Portugal has shifted to the CTO role. Nightingale's Ridgway and Phillips collaborated on the NZ cloud-communications success, Datasquirt, growing the company to a $17 million sale to Silicon Valley's LiveOps.

The latest round means that a total of 110 companies have received growth grants worth $292 million since they were introduced last year. Callaghan Innovation also provides r&d project grants for smaller companies and those who haven't done r&d in the past, along with graduate grants. All up, 832 high tech companies have gained funding since February last year.

The National Party's manifesto indicated it would allocate another $20 million per annum to the existing $141.5 million annually available for r&d grants.

The growth grants provide 20 per cent public co-funding for qualifying firms' own r&d expenditur, capped at $5 million annually. To qualify, companies need to spend at least $300,000 and 1.5 per cent of revenue a year on r&d in New Zealand. The three-year grants can be extended after two years for a further two years.