Clean-tech centre ready for more business

Symbiont managing director Tina Wilks likes the idea that other clean technology firms will be clustered at the centre.
Symbiont managing director Tina Wilks likes the idea that other clean technology firms will be clustered at the centre.

A clean technology centre on the Kapiti Coast is preparing to move up a gear.

Construction of a 900-square-metre facility at Otaki's Clean Tech Park is set to begin next month for companies ready to scale up to production.

The park's trust is also on a hunt for local angel investors.

Trust chief executive Steven Finlay said there would be room for six businesses with five to 10 fulltime staff, wanting to move "from incubator to revenue".

"We're looking at companies who are in-market, revenue-positive," he said.

When it opens, the new facility - complete with solar panels, a wind turbine and other energy-saving devices - will complement an existing clean-tech centre launched on the site two years ago by Grow Wellington.

That centre now houses 15 emerging companies working on 30 projects.

More recently, Kapiti Coast District Council approved a $1.5 million loan to set up the trust and develop the park.

Finlay said $700,000 of that would be available as seed money and to help companies set up investment tools.

But outside investment was critical, and it would be holding investor meetings locally as well as looking to the New Zealand Venture Investment Fund for support.

Trust chairman David Moloney paid tribute to Kapiti Coast District Council, which had trialled many of the centre's technologies and really "led the way" for investors.

"They are signalling that the market is ready to invest in the tangible benefits these technologies bring for the economy and the environment."

Firms already moving into the new facility include Symbiont, an online education company; Zero Emission Vehicles, a Palmerston North designer of electric commercial vehicles; and local IT solutions firm CSS Technologies.

Symbiont managing director Tina Wilks said she was attracted to the park's ultrafast broadband but also to its focus.

Her firm was piloting a course called FutureWorx, due for national rollout next year, which introduces workplace sustainability to 16-to-19-year-olds.

"Because of our move into producing training materials for sustainable industry practice, it seemed a good opportunity to get into an environment with other companies working in that area."

Finlay said one of the best things about the centre was that other sympathetic businesses and researchers had clustered around it.

A WelTec course in sustainable building has just finished its first year at the centre, with students learning skills from Little Greenie Design and Build, a building firm that boasts New Zealand's highest-rated energy-efficient home.

Local firm Riverbank Engineering had also relocated to provide inhouse services to the park.

And there was much going on in the alternative-fuel scene. Zero Emission Vehicles was building an electric rubbish truck for the council to trial, and Wellington firm Blended Fuel Solutions was working with a researcher there to commercialise its fuel.

"It really is becoming quite a mature hub of technology and innovation where developers have a chance not just to test their products in a real-world setting, but to talk to other developers about how and where they fit."

The first Investment Kapiti event will be on November 27.

The Dominion Post