Entrepreneurial Universities Q&As

Entrepreneurial Universities Q&As

Last updated 30 October 2017
Last updated 10/30/2017

This page provides questions and answers (Q&As) about the Entrepreneurial Universities initiative including the Request for Funding Applications process. 

Questions and answers are grouped into two sections:

  • questions about the Request for Funding (RFA) process, and
  • general questions.

Recent questions about the Entrepreneurial Universities Request for Funding Applications (RFA) process will be located at the top of the list.

If you have any questions, please email eui@tec.govt.nz. For probity reasons all questions must come through this mailbox.

To ensure that all applicants have access to the same information, we will not provide individual replies. Instead all answers will be published on this page. 

Request for Funding Applications (RFA) questions from Round Two

There are no questions at this stage. 

Request for Funding Applications (RFA) questions from Round One

Q. Who are the members of the Expert Assessment Panel?

A. The members of the Expert Assessment Panel are:

  • Peter Crabtree (non-voting Chair) – General Manager Science, Innovation and International Policy Branch
  • Candace Kinser – Advisor, Planatir Technologies
  • Professor Ikhlaq Sidhu – Director, Sutarddja Centre for Entrepreneurship and Technology, UC   Berkeley
  • Jenn Bestwick – Crown Research Institute Performance & ARA Council Chair
  • Professor Karen Willcox – Co-director, (Department of Energy) Diamond Centre MIT and Co-director, Centre for Computational Engineering MIT
  • Dr Peter Riddles - Science and Industry Endowment Fund & CSIO Board member

Q. What happens to the approved funding if the recruitment is ultimately unsuccessful? Does it go back into the EU funding pool?

A. Yes. The TEC reserves the right to run future funding rounds.

Q. P10 what is “stage one assessment”? Presumably it is the point where the panel decides whether all the current applications are approved, development or declined?

A. Yes. The first assessment is where the panel makes the recommendations to the TEC for the approval of standard applications, approved development applications and declined applications.

Q. P11 “Entrepreneurial academics and their teams will be expected to start work in NZ within one year of approval of funding being provided.” Does this mean within one year of “letters approving funding provided that specified conditions… are met” or does it mean within one year of confirmation “that the recruitment was executed as agreed in the approval of funding letter.”?

A. Entrepreneurial academics and their teams must start within one year of receiving a funding confirmation letter. In exceptional circumstances applicants may apply for an extension of this period. Extensions will be granted at the sole discretion of the TEC on a case-by-case basis. 

Q. P11 the “letters approving funding” mentioned in Step 3, paragraph 1: are these the same letters mentioned in Step 4, paragraph 2 (“Funding allocations and conditions of funding will be set out in a funding confirmation which will be sent to the applicant by letter”)?

A. Yes. There is one funding letter that will be issued to approved standard applications. To give universities assurance of funding to allow them to complete employment contracts with their approved academic, successful standard applications will receive a funding letter with conditions of funding. Funding can start following the academic’s employment contract having been signed. 

Q. P15 What is the difference between “letters of support” (allowed) and “testimonials” (not allowed)?

A. There is no significant difference. You are allowed to submit up to three letters of support, however you cannot supplement this with further testimonials and/or marketing materials. Other materials will not be considered in the assessment process. 

Q. In the applications, are hyperlinks allowed?

A. No. 

Q. In the application form, under Research Programme, it states, “Describe the academic and University’s track record in commercialisation activities, proposed research area and evidence to support proposed research programme”. Did you mean to have ‘commercialization’ there or was that a typo? Do you actually want the university to  describe its commercialisation efforts?

A. Yes. The intent here is to understand the environment the academic will be a part of, and this includes the university’s capacity and capability to commercialise / support the commercialisation of their research in the area in which their application relates to, as reflected in their prior track record of such activities.   

Q. What’s meant by evidence to support the research programme – evidence regarding what?

A. Evidence could include such things as capability, capacity, leadership, departmental resources and prior research successes in research areas. i.e., evidence that supports the likelihood of success of the proposed research area/programme.

Q.  Under the heading: Supporting the Ecosystem, the form states: “Describe how the academic will be managed and supported at both initial and end points of their tenure and within the wider University governance structure.” Is “governance” really meant to be used here, as academics usually have very little interaction with the University governance?

A. Governance structure is used in a broad sense, to include the management structures as well as research oversight and governance groups (not university councils). The TEC is looking for evidence of the university being a good employer by providing incoming academics with the support to enable them to succeed.

Q. Does the policy relate to the academic engendering another cohort of students that are entrepreneurial, about the academic spinning out start-ups, or both?

A. The policy is expected to impact upon both. These entrepreneurial academics undertaking research will not only provide research inspiration and pathways to commercial opportunities but the halo effect will impact on institutional culture, education and activities that will positively influence the next generation of entrepreneurial thinkers coming from universities. There are both short term and long term benefits as well as spill over effects for creating commercial opportunities and developing entrepreneurs. Fundamental to this is the opportunity for New Zealand to bring in global talent to stimulate new and ongoing developments around complex, scientific research. 

Q. How will confidentiality be maintained and conflicts of interest identified and managed throughout the process?

A. We realise that confidentiality is crucial to the success of the initiative and the relationships universities have with academics and other institutions. We have utmost confidence that confidentiality of all applications will be maintained.

The panel are highly professional people who deal with confidential processes on a regular basis. All panel members will be required to sign confidentiality agreements prior to receiving any applications. Applications will all be processed on secure devices and servers, minimised to only a small group of people outside the panel (the Project Secretariat) who will collate and process all applications.

The panel and people associated with the project have all been asked to declare any conflicts of interest. Furthermore, the panel will be asked to reconfirm their declarations following the submission of applications.

Audit New Zealand will continue to engage with TEC throughout the process, ensuring TEC manages conflicts where necessary. 

Q. What is the difference between a Standard and Development application?

A. A standard application will be more defined and executable, it will identify a candidate or a short list of up to 5 candidates for a proposed role and will articulate a clear plan for achieving the desired impact. The application will have formed an argument for how their research programme will benefit New Zealand and the wider flow on effect to the students, university and industry.

A Development application has a clear concept and desired outcomes identified but may not yet have identified academics or may have less certainty around the specificity of the academic. It is still generally deemed to be of merit as considered in the assessment criteria but requires further development. These will be subject to further development by the university to achieve the standard required for approval of funding.

All applications will be assessed against a consistent set of assessment criteria as set out in the RFA. 

Q. For Standard applications if you have someone in mind, is there an advantage in having spoken to the academic?

A. It is a necessary requirement as part of a Standard application to have the agreement from the academic to participate in the application process.  

Q. Is there flexibility around the Standard or Development applications? I.e. if the specified academic drops out, can an application move to a Development application?

A. No, it cannot be reconsidered as a Development application. We consider this to be a significant change to your application. As above, all applicants will need to gain consent from the academics in advance of submitting a Standard Application. 

Q. Do you have any feel for how much room will be allocated for Standard applications versus Development applications?

A. The panel will be treating the selection processes as a portfolio of investments. There may be a mix of Standard applications with specified academics versus Development applications.   

Q. What is the close off date for the Development applications? Do you have a time limit for when it can move from a Development application to a Standard application? What is the process in which the application will be resubmitted?

A. Following submission and assessment of proposals the TEC will work with those who have successfully submitted Development applications to determine appropriate timing for the revision, resubmission and re-evaluation of their application, with a view to granting approval of funding as soon as practicable. We will ensure that funding is set aside and retained for applicants who successfully revise and resubmit their application.

As outlined in the RFA, it is expected that it would be resubmitted as a Standard application within 6 months. We understand that extensions may be required in some circumstances and these will be handled on a case by case basis. Flexibility here may be required.

Resubmission to the panel will occur in batches at agreed points in time (likely to be monthly or bimonthly) depending on the volume of Development applications and confirmed once applications have been received and decisions made. 

Q. Will there be any additional money given for Development applications?

A. No additional funding will be made above the funding allocated for the initiative. 

Q. Will the entire funding pool be spent?

A. The TEC reserves the right not to allocate all of the funding and run future rounds. 

Q. Is there a cap on Government contributions per entrepreneurial academic?

A. Successful applicants can seek funding up to $1.5 million per annum to fund each entrepreneurial academic’s research programme. Government funding will at least be matched or exceeded by the university contribution, with the quantum and nature of the university contribution considered in assessing value for money. 

Q. Can in-kind contributions be included in the university contributions? i.e. time that comes into the project/resources/partners involved in the programme?

A. Yes, in-kind contributions can be included and will be assessed as part of the overall contribution. To ensure that such in-kind contribution can be assessed by the panel as part of the overall application, all contributions need to be clearly detailed and quantified in part B of the application.

The costs eligible for Government funding through the Entrepreneurial Universities initiative are those costs which can uniquely and unambiguously be identified to execute the proposed research programme. The applicant should determine how to apply this criterion, bearing in mind that the composition of the budget will be taken into consideration in the TEC assessment of value for money.

Please see section 6 of the RFA. 

Q. Can you tell us about the funded programme delivery costs versus the non-funded overheads and operating costs?

A. Please see above and section 6 of the RFA. 

Q. Will TEC take a view as to the size of the remuneration package for the academic?

A. Universities are best placed to determine the appropriate remuneration packages for their academic (and research teams). 

Q. Are there any blockages that may be had with Immigration NZ?

A. Normal immigration regulations apply and all applicants will need to follow immigration application processes. We have spoken to Immigration New Zealand who do not see any problems with how the visas would work (e.g. the essential skills work visa and talent visa). 

Q. What if more time is required for the academic to commence work in New Zealand than the time specified in the RFA?

A. The TEC has the discretion to give universities more time to allow for the successful arrival of an academic. 

Q. In regards to the 7 months requirement to be in New Zealand - could this mean the academic is just being funded for 7 months?

A. No, the academic must be physically present in New Zealand for a minimum of 7 months a year. 

Q. If you want to recruit an academic, is the 7 months residency restriction just around the one specified academic, and could involve a team that is based fully offshore? Or does it include the broader research programme?

A. There is only the requirement for the specified academic to be onshore for 7 months. We understand that there may be individuals involved in the programme who are offshore but are still involved in the programme, who are not subject to the same criteria around the time required to be spent in New Zealand. 

Q. Do you want the programme plan (as part of the Performance Monitoring Framework) as part of the application? Or is this after the application is successful?

A. The latter – once you have gone through the RFA process and have the green light, then you start to build out this plan. It should reflect the activities/eco-system you have detailed in your application. The draft Performance Monitoring Framework will be released in the coming months for review and comment. 

Q. Given that the benefits of the initiative may take 10-15 years to follow, can we assume that the outputs/outcomes may be more towards research outcomes rather than economic outcomes?

A. In the current draft of the Performance Monitoring Framework, we have worked through short term outcomes through to long term outcomes. We recognise that long term outcomes are difficult to measure and clear causation is difficult, particularly when social impact is attempting to be assessed. While long term measures cannot be assessed in the early years, we would expect some form of qualitative data, narrative or logic on how the programme is heading towards achieving these longer term outcomes.  

Q. Why have a programme plan and an annual plan, as opposed to just a performance report? We are seeking to employ entrepreneurial people looking for new opportunities to do great things. They may not have a programme plan.

A. The Performance Management Framework is only in draft form and we will be seeking feedback on it. The intent of planning was to support an understanding of what has and has not worked, the actions taken, and how this informs the plan for next steps. The emphasis is less on measuring the individual academic and more on what can be learnt for future policy setting. We look forward to your feedback on this. 

Q. Do you have any thoughts as to the tensions between the balance of the rankings of the target university and the academics capabilities?

A. The evaluation criteria focuses on the academic, what support networks and capabilities they can bring and the wider benefits to the host university, industry and New Zealand. Specific rankings of the university from which the academic comes from will not be assessed.  

Q. What is the trade-off between academic excellence and the possibility of choosing an academic on the way up in their career?

A. Each application will be judged on their merit, whether they are an emerging scientist or established in their field. 

Q. Has there been any discussion around New Zealand Government sending out communications about the Entrepreneurial Universities opportunity?

A. No this has not occurred, but we will take this as a consideration for future funding rounds.


Q. Who are the members of the Expert Assessment Panel?

A. The members of the Expert Assessment Panel are:

  • Peter Crabtree (non-voting Chair) – General Manager Science, Innovation and International Policy Branch
  • Candace Kinser Advisor, Planatir Technologies
  • Professor Ikhlaq Sidhu Director, Sutarddja Centre for Entrepreneurship and Technology, UC   Berkeley
  • Jenn Bestwick – Crown Research Institute Performance & ARA Council Chair
  • Professor Karen Willcox – Co-director, (Department of Energy) Diamond Centre MIT and Co-director, Centre for Computational Engineering MIT
  • Dr Peter Riddles - Science and Industry Endowment Fund & CSIO Board member

General questions

Q. What will the initiative do?

A. The Entrepreneurial Universities initiative is a competitive fund to enable universities to recruit world-leading academics with entrepreneurial and commercial capability to stimulate increased innovation and entrepreneurship in the university sector. This will grow New Zealand’s scientific excellence in a way that complements other initiatives in higher education.

Q. Why is the Government establishing this initiative?

A. New Zealand universities are already engaging in valuable initiatives to increase New Zealand’s overall innovation capability and performance. An increasingly innovation-led economy creates more opportunities to partner with commercial sector research towards shared objectives. This initiative is designed to stimulate this process through recruiting world-leading entrepreneurial researchers who will build stronger and more relevant links with existing and emerging industries and firms. It is part of a wider package to grow universities’ leadership role in innovation and entrepreneurship across New Zealand.

Q. How much funding is available?

A. Budget 2016 allocated $35 million over four years for this initiative: Approximately $2.5 million for the first year and $10 million in each subsequent year, as well as out-year funding. Applicants may apply for up to $1.5 million per annum for 3-4 years. Funding will be non-SAC funding.

Q. Who will be eligible for the fund?

A. All New Zealand universities will be eligible to submit applications for the funding.

Q. How will applicants be selected?

A. Following the closure of the Request for Funding Applications, all applications will be evaluated by a panel of experts. Evaluation will include individual assessments followed by a group assessment and moderation workshop.

Q. When will funding be made available?

A. Funding for the initiative will be made available from 2017. 

Q. What can the government funding be used for?

A. Funding will be available to support academics to undertake research, and innovative and collaborative activity with industry. Government funding cannot be used to meet overhead or capital costs.

Q. Why is this initiative focused on the recruitment of overseas researchers?

A. Overseas researchers will add to New Zealand’s existing talent pool, growing research expertise in key areas where we are poised to become a world leader. They will bring fresh perspectives and experiences to generate new ideas across the wider university faculty. Scientists from overseas also bring with them international networks to inform directions of research in New Zealand university departments.

Internationally-connected, world-leading research has been shown to attract and stimulate world-leading firms and start-ups. For example, Singapore, Ireland and, recently, the University of New South Wales in Australia are all operating or launching initiatives of this nature, and are reporting positive impact.