Year in Review

The Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship

Our mission is to develop entrepreneurial talent to better Aotearoa and the world

Director's welcome

Haere mai, and welcome to the year in review for the University of Auckland Business School’s Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE).

At CIE, we offer opportunities for students and staff of all faculties at Waipapa Taumata Rau, the University of Auckland.

Our team at CIE gives participants the opportunity to stand out and create value both professionally and personally, ultimately enabling them to make an impact and contribute to a better world.

We do this through delivering world-class education at our innovation hubs, creating a community of like-minded people who are audacious and ambitious.

As we finish 2023, the team at CIE are reflecting on a remarkable year of achievement and change. We hope that you find this end-of-year review insightful. Thank you for your support, and we look forward to working with you in 2024.

Darsel Keane – CIE Director 

In 2023 CIE supported

over 7,500

unique individuals


over 15,000


"Whether the future ambitions of our community members are to start their own venture or to leverage innovation as an employee, CIE is here to support their journey."
Darsel Keane, CIE Director

Since 2003 our CIE community has made a significant impact

279 ventures ignited

3,260 jobs created

$1.39 billion in capital raised

Our Programmes


Velocity is our flagship entrepreneurship development programme, delivered by a student leadership committee in partnership with CIE. Velocity offers a year-long comprehensive programme, where participants can pick and choose which parts of the programme they wish to partake in.

In 2023, the team delivered a hackathon, a sustainability innovation weekend workshop, Whiua Ki Te Ao - a Māori entrepreneurship seminar, a Women in Entrepreneurship event, Pasifika Talaona - a Pacific entrepreneurship seminar, and competitions including the Velocity Ideas Challenge and start-up planning competition the Velocity $100k Challenge. This year, Velocity received the most entries for the Velocity $100k Challenge ever, with a staggering 106 venture ideas received and assessed by our community of industry professionals and academics.

Velocity Student Committee 2023

Velocity Student Committee 2023

Summer Lab

Our Summer Lab programme ran over four weeks in January and February. More than 80 participants learned about the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs), identified a problem to solve, formed teams and came up with a start-up plan based on their solution. In 2023, CIE won an award for Entrepreneurship Education Excellence for Summer Lab from the United States Association of Small Business and Entrepreneurship.

“The smartest decision I made this summer was to join Summer Lab.”
Hang Zhao, Science Student

Researcher Hatchery

In 2023, CIE launched a brand-new Researcher Hatchery on behalf of UniServices and the Office of Research Strategy and Integrity. The Hatchery will enable researchers at Waipapa Taumata Rau, the University of Auckland to identify new ways to make an exponential societal or commercial impact through their research. The Programme has been established to further contribute to the already significant impact that research has had on New Zealand’s prosperity.

A 2023 report from the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research (NZIER) estimates that 8.2% – 9.7% of New Zealand’s economic activity (GDP) is a consequence of university research and ideas permeating out into the economy over time.

“In order for New Zealand to do our part to create solutions for local and global economic, environmental and social problems, we need a robust community of researchers with entrepreneurial mindsets and skills to transform knowledge into action. The University’s new Researcher Hatchery is an exciting development.” 
Professor Frank Bloomfield, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Research

Start-Up Studio

Start-up Studio is CIE’s co-working space, based within the Unleash Space, with wraparound support.  

Kiki, a New York based sub-letting start-up was initially formulated by its founder, Toby Thomas-Smith, while studying at the University of Auckland, where he was almost a permanent resident in CIE's Start-up Studio. This year Kiki raised US$6 million in seed capital.

“I wouldn’t be here without CIE and Unleash Space."
Toby Thomas-Smith, Kiki Founder and CEO

Generation Changemakers

Twice a year, each cohort of the University of Auckland’s inbound study abroad and exchange students are given the opportunity to learn about innovation and entrepreneurship as tools to address climate issues. This optional, extra-curricular opportunity is delivered to students of diverse subject areas, organised by the International Office in partnership with CIE.

It’s an intense programme where participants gain valuable transferable skills in communication, critical thinking, teamwork and collaborative project planning, emotional intelligence, and socio-political awareness. When they leave us, we hope they feel empowered to become passionate activists and changemakers in their own communities and beyond.

Doctoral Entrepreneurial Leadership Programme

The Doctoral Entrepreneurial Leadership Programme is a free full-year, part-time programme for University of Auckland doctoral candidates from all disciplines, designed to develop entrepreneurial mindset and skills and to help participants explore different career paths after completing their doctoral studies. The Programme incorporates monthly workshops and a 3-day residential workshop.

“The Programme's influence on my thinking about my future career is immeasurable. I am grateful for the invaluable mentorship I received and the profound personal transformation from collaborating with a diverse group of doctoral students and forming lasting friendships.” 
Mohammed Iftekhar, Doctoral Candidate, Management and International Business (2023 cohort)

Venture Lab

Venture Lab is the University of Auckland’s incubator programme that plays a crucial role in helping the winning teams from CIE’s Velocity $100k Challenge continue to turn their start-up ideas into real-world ventures. Over six months, participants benefit from dedicated mentors, the collegial support of peers in their cohort, access to funding and other benefits.

"Having an hour with someone each week to guide us with their years of experience (as well as a cheery face!) helped to make sure we focused on the most crucial aspects of growing a business.”
Alexandar Majstorović, OutThere Astronautics CEO and Co-Founder

Vanguard Entrepreneurial Leaders Expedition

The Vanguard programme gives high-potential student leaders the opportunity to partake in an all-expenses paid study tour of the Silicon Valley entrepreneurial ecosystem, with introductions to some of the world’s leading innovators, thanks to CIE’s networks.

This year’s cohort met with the CEO of Allbirds, toured Stanford’s D.School, and experienced site visits to iconic tech giant Amazon, biotech company Synthego and the innovation hub Plug and Play, and more.

"It was an unforgettable journey that transformed our perspective on entrepreneurship through meeting visionaries and experiencing first-hand the incredible ecosystem.”
Kelly Ye, Velocity COO

Hynds Entrepreneurial Fellows Programme

The Hynds Entrepreneurial Fellows Programme aims to embed innovation and entrepreneurship in the curricula across the University of Auckland by working with and supporting academics from all faculties. In 2023, the Hynds programme supported the education of nearly 3,000 students.

"It's not about ideas. It's about making ideas happen!”
Peter Rachor, Professional Teaching Fellow

Summer Lab 2023

Summer Lab 2023

Doctoral Entrepreneurial Leadership Programme 2023

Doctoral Entrepreneurial Leadership Programme 2023

Vanguard 2023

Vanguard 2023

Venture Lab 2023

Venture Lab 2023

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Summer Lab 2023

Summer Lab 2023

Doctoral Entrepreneurial Leadership Programme 2023

Doctoral Entrepreneurial Leadership Programme 2023

Vanguard 2023

Vanguard 2023

Venture Lab 2023

Venture Lab 2023

Our Innovation Hubs

To thrive in the world of tomorrow…
You may not become an entrepreneur, but you will need to think like one.

Kura Matahuna Unleash Space

We run hundreds of free technology training workshops every year. This year CIE welcomed 2,246 students and staff to develop new technology skills and celebrated 10,000 participants completing induction to our innovation hubs, since our first location opened in 2018.

Explore our 2023 Digital Twin of Unleash Space below!

Community engagement

Our innovation hubs continue to serve as a location for community engagement events. In 2023 CIE partnered with primary and secondary schools, Māori and Pacific communities, local entrepreneurs, hackathon creators, the University's Maker Club and more.

This year CIE hosted 67 events and welcomed 479 school children into our hubs for inspiration and experimentation.

Te Ahi Hangarau, 5G Technology Hub

Te Ahi Hangarau is the location of CIE's 5G-powered technology training, including introductions to Artificial Intelligence, Metaverse, Internet of Things, Virtual Reality and more. CIE delivers free co-curricular training for students and staff of all faculties, as well as supporting Business School teaching staff with futuristic curricula delivery.

"Innovation and entrepreneurship are accepted unlockers of prosperity. There is an opportunity for Aotearoa New Zealand to better leverage innovation to increase prosperity both now and into the future."
PwC Report - 'A pathway to wellbeing for all of Aotearoa'

Our Mahi

21st Century Challenges

Embracing the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Rapid emerging technological advancement is disrupting the way we live and work. CIE has embraced technology education as one way to support its core work of educating tomorrow's innovators and entrepreneurs. In order to be innovative using technology, it's first essential to understand its possibilities.

On 30 November 2022, Chat GPT was unleashed to the public.

By February 2023, Business School and CIE staff had developed course content to introduce use cases for Artificial Intelligence (AI). CIE staff built a digital human to co-present this introductory video, which students and staff receive in advance of in-person AI tutorials.

Advancing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs) are an urgent call for action, providing a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet. CIE uses the UNSDGs as the framework for much of its programme design, and our CIE community are developing a myriad of solutions to address needs in health, education, energy and more.

In 2023 CIE achieved an 80.6 Net Promoter Score!

(NPS is the measure of how likely someone is to refer a product or service)

Our Awards

CIE was honoured to receive multiple awards in 2023

United States Association of Small Business and Entrepreneurship award (USASBE)

The Summer Lab programme received the Entrepreneurship Education Excellence award for innovation in co-curricular education. Read more

Entrepreneurial University of the Year (Asia Pacific) Triple E Awards Runner-up

The theme for 2023 was Entrepreneurial and Engaged Universities for Sustainable Development: linking education, research and innovation to the United Nation’s Sustainability Goals (UN-SDG). Read more

Global Entrepreneurship Network NZ Award

We were honoured to receive the Global Entrepreneurship Network New Zealand Award for Academic Initiative of the Year in recognition of the Velocity Programme. Read more

Sean Kelly, Staff Excellence Award

CIE’s Technology and Prototyping Manager Sean Kelly received a University of Auckland Business School Staff Excellence Award for innovation in recognition of his work supporting the establishment of the Business School’s 5G technology hub Te Ahi Hangarau.

Peter Rachor, Entrepreneurial Educator of the Year (Asia Pacific) Triple E Awards 'People's Choice'

Business School Professional Teaching Fellow Peter Rachor was recognised as a finalist in the Entrepreneurial Educator of the Year (Asia Pacific) category, as well as receiving the most votes in an international people’s choice survey.

One hundred inspired New Zealand entrepreneurs could turn this country around. That is the challenge for us all."
Sir Paul Callaghan

Our Alumni

Our Alumni Stories

CIE stays connected with our alumni and celebrates their achievements, generating over 70 news articles per year that we share with the NZ entrepreneurial ecosystem and wider University alumni networks.

Below are examples of a few of the many stories published by CIE Newsroom in 2023:

Formus Labs

Formus Labs developed the world’s first AI-powered orthopaedic surgery software. They snatched two prestigious titles at the 2023 NZ Hi-Tech Awards. 
Learn more


Neurofanos developed a revolutionary AI-driven tool capable of measuring and analysing the structure of the brain in real-time. Since winning the Velocity $100k Challenge last year and taking part in CIE’s Venture Lab incubator, their research team have received $1m in funding from MBIE to support further development.
Learn more

Green Spot Technologies

Dr Ninna Granucci is a scientist and CEO of Green Spot Technologies, which ferments and upcycles natural food byproducts from food processing industries to produce highly nutritious ingredients. She received an EU Prize for Women Innovators in 2022.  
Learn more


Auror's Crime Intelligence Platform now services over 90% of the retail enterprise market in New Zealand, saving police over 600,000 hours a year in investigations. They were honoured with the EY Entrepreneur of the Year New Zealand 2022 award.
Learn more

Maria Jose Alvarez

Maria Jose is bridging the gap between the science and Venture Capital communities in New Zealand, helping deep-tech start-ups and first-time founders bring their ideas to life. Working as an Investment Manager, she is dedicated to fostering the growth of the next generation of founders. 
Learn more

Kara Technologies

Kara Technologies aims to help companies all around the world make their services accessible to the Deaf community and those who use sign language, with the help of the company’s hyper-realistic signing avatars. They recently raised $1.3m in seed capital.
Learn more

Dr Graeme Fielder

Graeme is the Chief Operating Officer for AviadoBio who are set to initiate their first human clinical trial this year for gene therapy they are developing to treat early-onset dementia.
Learn more

Ming Cheuk

Ming Cheuk is the co-founder and CTO of the applied AI agency ElementX and an Executive Member of the AI Forum NZ. He has been providing thought leadership and guidance on how organisations can navigate this rapidly advancing technology.
Learn more

Danny Garg

Danny is the founder of Valka Yoga, which sells sustainable, functional yoga mats and accessories. With over 20,000 yoga mats sold so far, Danny is committed to his company’s goal of producing ‘the most eco-friendly yoga mat in the world’. 
Learn more


Cotiss aims to make the tender process easier with intuitive software designed to make the process more efficient, saving time and money for procurement teams who work in high regulation and compliance industries.  They recently launched with the support of $2.2m investment.
Learn more

PrintGig and OutThere Astronautics

These start-ups are two examples of what is possible when passion, technical knowledge and collaboration collide, with both ventures recently attending and showcasing at the New Zealand Aerospace Summit 2023.
Learn more


Healthcare providers throughout New Zealand have adopted AI rostering software solution RosterLab, and they are now expanding to other industries that can also benefit from their innovative rostering solution, recently announcing a partnership with the SeaLink ferry service.  
Learn more

Our Supporters

Our Supporters

Velocity Supporters

Velocity provides incredible development opportunities and thousands of dollars of funding every year, made possible with the support of:

Tony Falkenstein - Just Life Group

The Vanguard Entrepreneurial Leaders Expedition is made possible by the generous support of philanthropist and entrepreneur Tony Falkenstein, who accompanied the University of Auckland cohort this year on the study tour.

Hynds Foundation

The Hynds Entrepreneurial Fellows Programme is made possible through a generous philanthropic gift from the Hynds Foundation.

CIE Volunteers

CIE's connection with industry experts is an important part of our offering. We rely on around 300 volunteers from the entrepreneurial and business communities to share their experiences and enable the next generation of change-makers.

CIE volunteers make an invaluable contribution to our community through their help as mentors, competition judges and as guest lecturers.

Ngā mihi

Thank you to everyone who has contributed to another successful year at CIE.

Our People

Meet the team of professionals and academics powering CIE:

Engage with us!

At CIE, we aim to build a thriving community that embraces innovation and an entrepreneurial mindset. We invite you to join our community and help us on our mission to better Aotearoa and the world.

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Donate or Volunteer!

Mentors, speakers, judges, and sponsors all play a critical role in developing the next generation of change-makers. If you would like to get involved - please contact us!