18/06/2008 - 22:00

Super fund aids research

18/06/2008 - 22:00

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A commitment this week by Perth-based superannuation fund Westscheme to invest $30 million over five years to commercialise research from universities has been applauded by the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research.

PLEDGE: The Telethon Institute for Child Health Research has applauded the $30 million investment by Westscheme into university research. Photo: Grant Currall

A commitment this week by Perth-based superannuation fund Westscheme to invest $30 million over five years to commercialise research from universities has been applauded by the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research.

The Trans Tasman Commercialisation Fund is a partnership between Westscheme, four Australian universities and the University of Auckland.

The fund will include $1.25 million from the Victorian and South Australian governments and $797,000 from the New Zealand government.

Westscheme, which holds more than $2.79 billion of workers' retirement savings, has become one of Australia's biggest providers of venture capital, expanding its activities in the sector by negotiating new funding deals with universities and research institutions.

The super fund has committed $10 million to Murdoch University researchers to help commercialise their intellectual property and a further $10 million to the Stone Ridge Ventures Technology Fund, which supports researchers at other institutions besides Murdoch.

While the Telethon Institute is unable to obtain funding from the Trans Tasman fund, chief financial officer Bruce McHarrie, said Westscheme's investment strategy was of particular interest to the institute.

"We will benefit from this fund in a way, but it's an indirect benefit," he told WA Business News.

"The Westscheme fund targets projects in the early stages of research but they aren't necessarily in the life sciences sector, they're a broader range of industries."

"So while we can't directly apply for funding because we're not a member of the Trans Tasman fund, funds like this do an enormous amount for helping other research projects to become commercial."

Commenting on the Trans Tasman fund, Westscheme chief executive, Howard Rosario, said the super fund's investment strategy had taken off since the Murdoch Westscheme Enterprise Partnership was launched in 2004.

"When research projects are at a commercialisation stage they need funding to get them out into the market so the ideas can be incubated," he said.

"That's where the [Trans Tasman] fund comes in."

Westscheme has also funded the Uniseed fund and the Medical Research Commercialisation Fund (MRCF).

The Telethon Institute and the WA Institute for Medical Research are members of MRCF, a pre-seed investment fund used to boost medical research projects in the early stages of commercialisation.

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