Entrepreneurial University of the Year Award

The University of Auckland

Finalist of the Entrepreneurial University of the Year Award

"Achieve the amazing with the University of Auckland"

Engage on social media


Have a say and vote for your favorite entries

Unregistered vote
100 points per vote*
Simply click the icon below and we register your vote.

* Unregistered votes are only counted up to the total points received through registered and social media votes.
Registered vote
500 points per vote
Provide your email address and click on "vote". You will then receive an email that enables you to verify your vote by clicking on a link.

Social media vote
1500 points per (re)tweet
Tweet or retweet using the following two hashtags:


Innovation and entrepreneurship have emerged as essential ingredients for responding to the world’s economic and societal challenges and opportunities. The University of Auckland plays a pivotal role in entrepreneurship in New Zealand through its roles as an educator of graduates with entrepreneurial capabilities, and as a creator of knowledge and ideas addressing business and social issues, that stimulates the formation of new enterprises (commercial and social), and promotes innovation within existing firms and organisations.

In recent years the University has significantly increased its commitment to drive entrepreneurship at the University of Auckland and its community. While the University previously held isolated pockets of excellence in entrepreneurship, the new vision for the University is to have entrepreneurship as a core component of the University’s identity and operations. In order to make this concept a success, we need to ingrain an entrepreneurial mindset within our staff and students. This means extending entrepreneurship education opportunities for students and staff at all levels (undergraduate and postgraduate), for students and staff of all disciplines and broadening the definition and understanding of entrepreneurship, beyond the commercialisation of research. The University of Auckland has massively expanded its potential to enable the entrepreneurial potential in others through the development of an overarching innovation and entrepreneurship strategy, hiring and enabling specialist staff and through the creation of resources. These include the establishment of a world-class innovation hub and makerspace, an inventors fund and investment committees, a global presence with off-shore spaces, extra-curricular programmes and integration of entrepreneurship within curricula.

Key People

Stuart McCutcheon
Vice Chancellor
The University of Auckland

Wendy Kerr
Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship,  The University of Auckland

Andy Shenk
UniServices,  The University of Auckland

Adrienne Cleland
Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Operations) and Registrar
The University of Auckland

Will Charles
Director of Commercialisation
UniServices,  The University of Auckland

Jim Metson
Deputy Vice Chancellor (Research)
The University of Auckland

Lise Eriksen
Senior Researcher and Analyst
The University of Auckland


Staff at the Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, UniServices and the University of Auckland’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship Working Group.


Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern opens the University's new innovation hub and maker space, Unleash Space

VentureLab - the University of Auckland's incubator

Students in the University of Auckland's new maker space

Solve It - the University of Auckland's corporate innovation challenge

Signing of the Memorandum of Understanding between UniServices, the commercialisation arm of the University of Auckland, and Japan's National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST), to develop new and innovative technology opportunities.

The University of Auckland founded the Innovation Institute of China in Hangzhou to be a world-class centre for research and innovation

Momentum, a student-administered investment committee

Arash Tayebi - founder of Kara Technologies, an online platform that translates content from different materials including books, audio and video, into sign language

Get Good Done social entrepreneurship programme

The University of Auckland's new maker space allows students the opportunity to invent and rapid prototype


Impacting lifes

Arash Tayebi came to New Zealand as an international student to complete his PhD in electrical engineering. He says the university sparked an entrepreneurial spirit he didn't know he had. It inspired him to start a venture borne out of personal experience. Arash has a disease calls Meniere’s disease that resulted in him losing hearing in his left ear. He wants to help the deaf community by addressing the pain point of there not being enough teachers available who know sign language. Arash co-founded social enterprise Kara Technologies which uses artificial intelligence (AI) and digital humans to translate content into sign language. It uses AI and hyper-realistic avatars, with a particular emphasis on making educational material accessible for deaf children.

The founders of Kara Technologies were all students of the University of Auckland. They participated in the Velocity entrepreneurship programme, winning the social entrepreneurship category of the $100k challenge, took part in the University’s six month VentureLab incubator programme and accessed many thousands of dollars of funding from UniServices as well as continued support and mentorship. The team are now alumni and continue to work on Kara full time. Arash says: "I was pretty shy to talk about this idea to change the way deaf people communicate. I thought I might be judged or called crazy. But at the University of Auckland there are people waiting for you to come and share your ideas. It's a place where you can grow very fast and be ready to change the planet."


Lessons learned

In leading development of opportunities for entrepreneurship within the University of Auckland, a key learning was the importance of including students in leadership and decision making processes in order for the entrepreneurial ecosystem to thrive. Student committees have made entrepreneurship more accessible and less intimidating. The student committee that organises the University’s Velocity student entrepreneurship programme recruit students to participate through using vernacular, examples and marketing tactics that appeal to their contemporaries.

UniServices runs an Investment Committee process called Return on Science to allocate capital from the University of Auckland Inventors Fund. In 2016 UniServices added members from the student community and their successful contribution led to the formation of the nationwide Momentum Investment Committees that allocates capital to student start-ups. What has been surprising has been the development of a wave of not just student entrepreneurs but also now a student network of mentors, capital allocators and directors. To date the committees have seen over 70 student projects and by the end of 2020 will be based in all main centres in New Zealand. Students, particularly those choosing their PhDs are looking for more than just academic training. Another surprise is how this attitude has become contagious.

The student community (post undergraduate and postgraduate) engagement with these programmes has shifted academic’s views of the opportunities beyond teaching and publishing as ways of creating impact from their research.


What's coming?

The new overarching strategy for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the University of Auckland is being finalised and will form the foundation from which to achieve audacious goals for growing the capability and potential of aspiring entrepreneurs.

In the immediate future, the University will continue to pursue its ambition to have 10% of students involved in the CIE. It’s also broadening its scope to include work within curricular as well as extra-curricular programmes. The Centre recently launched the Hynds Entrepreneurial Fellows Programme to embed innovation and entrepreneurship within curricula across the University. This programme will begin in earnest in 2020. UniServices commercialisation strategic ambitions for 2019 – 2023 includes a 2.5 x return on investment, a 15-18% internal rate of return, creating 20 start-ups per annum and 1-2 exits per annum, doubling the size of investment committee Return on Science and increasing the size of the inventors fund to $50m.

Beyond commercial goals, the evolution of the University’s entrepreneurship strategy will also be impacted by the changing interests and motivations of the current generation who are increasingly aware and responsive to the environmental and social perils that the world faces. We have seen an increasing interest from students in creating social ventures. The University of Auckland has demonstrated subject knowledge and capability in this area (it was recently ranked as number one in the THE University Impact Rankings). As such, it is our responsibility and privilege to help empower our students to tackle the Sustainability Development Goals through the lens of entrepreneurship.



% of University of Auckland students participating in activities delivered by CIE in 2018


Sqm of innovation hub opened by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern


Growth of entrepreneurial ideas by


Number of patent licenses in the last 5


Number of invention disclosures in the last 5 years


Ventures begun by alumni


# in the world for impact in the Times Higher Education University Impact Rankings


$ generated through University of Auckland’s commercialisation company UniServices


$ generated through UniServices via spin-out companies


Students partaking in University of Auckland’s Velocity student entrepreneurship programme

2020 © ACEEU. All rights reserved.