This ‘greaser of the (supplying internationally) tracks’ will be really good for NZ science

I’m sort of embarrassed that I’ve never heard of Science Exchange before.

It’s been going for over five years, started in the US by a couple of Kiwi founders, and has grown well beyond start up to having recently secured Series B funding of US$25 million.

In its own words “Science Exchange has become the world’s leading marketplace for scientific research. Through Science Exchange, researchers can securely access a network of 1,000s of screened and verified contract research organizations (CROs), academic labs, and government facilities that are available to conduct scientific experiments.”

The now Palo Alto, Silicon Valley located firm acts as a halfway house between organisations needing science done, and researchers with the specialist knowledge and facilities to do the same. Pharmaceutical companies and US government agencies have been the major users of the connecting service.

Science Exchange not only validates the science providers credentials, it takes care of the paperwork, payment and IP, including dealing across international borders.

It has obviously solved a problem.

NZ satellite office established in Wellington

And now it has established its first satellite office – in New Zealand, operating out of the Wellington Biz Dojo. Not the least reason for the location is Hawkes Bay raised David Iorns, brother of SciEx co-founder Elizabeth Iorns wanting to return home and raise a family.

But New Zealand will be a good test of how SciEx can go about growing – while being ideally located (timezone-wise) between west coat America and Asia.

Along with Matiu Andrew-Cookson, who has an interesting background as a biochemist along with structural planning expertise, SciEx (NZ branch) is looking to show science researchers and facilities here how they can much more easily provide their in-demand expertise to the world.

It should be something that is welcomed with open arms by everyone.

We have expertise, at times under-utilised capacity, specialised knowledge in certain areas, and are reasonably trusted.

Other people are prepared to pay for these outputs – and usually quite handsomely. Science Exchange’s cut comes from the buyer of the research – added on top of the negotiated ‘doing-science’ fee.

It doesn’t seem outside the realm of possibility that some science providers could make some serious coin by being the outsourced component of someone else’s needs.

There’s already private companies such as Trinity Bioactives who make biological products for overseas customers, and has been an accredited Science Exchange research provider for a few months. Others such as the Cawthron Institute, Hill Laboratories, P3 Research and NZ Genomics are, presumably, partners-in-waiting.

The Crown Research Institutes and universities must also have spare capacity. It is quite easy to envisage that such overseas derived contracts could help underwrite original NZ research.

But, there may be downsides that I haven’t thought of.

Can anyone else think of how the presence of Science Exchange could be detrimental to NZ?

(There’s completely different written material from Peter Kerr at):

  1. Punchline – Messages that Matter (specialising in business’s first, most important message [tagline]
  2. What I Wish My Dad Told Me – advice and bits of accumulated wisdom

About sticknz

sticK is by Peter Kerr, a writer for hire. I have a broad science and technology background and interest, with an original degree in agricultural science. My writing speciality is making the complex understandable. I am available for outside consultancy work, and for general discussions of converting a good idea into something positive
This entry was posted in contract writer, Early stage science, high tech, Innovation, SciBlogs, Science, Science policy, writer for hire and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to This ‘greaser of the (supplying internationally) tracks’ will be really good for NZ science

  1. Will there be challenges around balancing the draw of revenue from offshore and potential associated loss of IP to offshore? And also balancing the needs of organisations in NZ with the needs of organisations offshore. Also, as I understand it, expanding overseas revenue is not in the mandate of the CRIs under the terms of their agreements with the Minister.

    • sticknz says:

      Hi Jane. Rather than me attempting to answer (and potentially get it wrong), I’ve asked David Iorns to answer. His reply is below.

      Good question. Thank you for your interest. Science Exchange is an online marketplace for scientific research. In any marketplace there is a demand (buy) side and a supply (sell) side. On the supply side of the marketplace Science Exchange represents an opportunity for New Zealand service providers to more easily provide scientific services both within New Zealand and to overseas customers. Science Exchange can increase the revenue of existing institutions by allowing them to utilize any surplus capacity they have. Thanks to Science Exchange’s Master Service Agreements with many of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies it also gives New Zealand service providers access to customers they may previously have been unable to reach. In general it presents an opportunity for New Zealand scientific organizations to maximize their efficiency. That doesn’t mean they would cease to carry out their primary mandates.

      On the demand side of the marketplace there would be no loss of IP. The IP remains the property of the scientist purchasing services from providers on Science Exchange. Science Exchange does make it easier for New Zealand based researchers to outsource research. That in turn means that they may choose to outsource that research overseas which could result in revenue for overseas service providers. It could equally mean that thanks to efficiency gains the scientist can now make their budget go further and therefore can spend more in New Zealand. Our objective as a company is to accelerate the pace of scientific research. As a globally focused free market economy we’re confident New Zealand will embrace the opportunity to more easily do business with customers both in New Zealand and overseas. We look forward to contributing to the growth of the scientific services sector in New Zealand.

      David has also specifically answered the CRI query.

      In addition to my previous response I have been asked to specifically address the topic of Crown Research Institutes (CRIs) which form a large part of the scientific services sector in New Zealand. I’ve not read the terms of their agreements with the Minister however their website does state “their clients include central and local government and private sector markets in New Zealand and abroad”.

      Science Exchange is not about redirecting research focus from New Zealand issues, it’s about resource optimization and efficiency. If a CRI had excess capacity that was not utilized I would suggest the New Zealand taxpayer would be disappointed to hear that their tax burden could have been reduced had that excess capacity been made use of via a platform like Science Exchange.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s