Waikato initiative aims to spur student innovation
A new initiative developed by the University and Waikato Students’ Union (WSU) will offer University of Waikato students the opportunity to experience what it takes to be an entrepreneur and to build an idea into a new venture. 
The Summer Start-Up Programme will run in Hamilton and Tauranga from 16 November to 12 February - with a three-week break over Christmas. This gives students 10 weeks to develop their own project or idea with the help of an expert start-up coach, workshops and full-access to a shared working space.
A $5000 Summer Start-up Programme Scholarship was set up to support students during the programme. A total of 29 scholarships were awarded, 19 to students studying at the Hamilton campus, five studying at the Tauranga campus, and another five were awarded to students studying at the Bay of Plenty Polytechnic for a related programme called Project Ignite.
Among the successful scholarship applications were creating footwear that will give high performance on multiple terrains; developing an online toolbox for property managers and tenants; and investigating the logistics of freezing citrus.
Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Alister Jones says the initiative aims to nurture student entrepreneurs. “It provides a hands-on, action-based experience directly relating to each student’s “bright idea” under the guidance of expert start-up coaches and advisors.”
Former Business Growth Manager at SODA Inc. who now heads her own consultancy firm, Vanessa Clark, is the expert coach in Hamilton. CEO for the Plus Group of Companies at Newnham Park Innovation Centre and Waikato MBA alumna, Tina Jennen, is the expert coach in Tauranga.
The 10-week programme is based around the international Lean Start-Up Method and is grounded in experiential learning.
The students, who are from a range of subject areas, will work through a series of start-up modules that are customised to their own ideas, hear inspirational speakers, attend networking events, access specialist advice and learn how to apply for seed funding.
At the end of the programme, they’ll pitch their ventures to a panel of founding sponsors: the University, WSU, Gallagher, APL, Office Max, Ballance Agri-Nutrients Limited, Priority One, Bay of Plenty Polytechnic and Plus Group. Any IP developed during the 10-week programme will belong to the individual student.
WSU President Shannon Stewart says the initiative has a strong student focus. “The programme was prepared by a working group dominated by student representatives to ensure Waikato’s student voice is heard.”
 
Photo: University of Waikato Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Alister Jones.