EHF cohort impressed by visit

Rula Talahma, a Palestinian who grew up in the US and Gaza, photographs a model of the Marisfrolg...
Rula Talahma, a Palestinian who grew up in the US and Gaza, photographs a model of the Marisfrolg HA at Van Brandenburg Architects, Dunedin, as part of a wider Otago tour by the Edmund Hillary Fellows. PHOTO: PETER MCINTOSH
A class act of emerging change-makers and investors were impressed with a visit to the leading lights of Dunedin's business community last week.

The itinerary for the international group of nine included visits to Van Brandenburg Architects, Petridish and Animation Research.

The group - representing the fifth and latest cohort of Edmund Hillary Fellows - were on a flying visit through Otago as part of their Global Impact Visas (GIVs), a collaborative programme involving the Edmund Hillary Fellowship (EHF) and Immigration New Zealand.

GIVs were developed as a pathway to New Zealand residency for innovative entrepreneurs, investors and change-makers.

The fellowship, launched in 2017, has attracted 208 fellows over the past two years, of which a quarter have been New Zealanders.

The GIV - designed as the world's first visa to focus on impact - is a three-year work visa which offers a pathway to permanent residency for those selected under the programme.

On a combined basis, the fellows hold about $US3.6billion, of which around 10% is considered "philanthropic".

EHF strategic alliance lead Michelle Cole said the mission was to "incubate" solutions to global problems - ranging from health and poverty to the environment and technology - to make a lasting positive impact.

"We are in a competitive race to attract talent.

"The foundation, along with our collaborators, wants to harness New Zealand's natural and social advantages to offer a unique opportunity for scientists, innovators and creatives, to lead and grow an ecosystem of bold people to innovate and tackle global challenges from their New Zealand base camp."

There are 51 members in the latest cohort, representing 16 nationalities.

One of them is American computer scientist Mayank Malik, whose venture Code Hobbits seeks to unlock the potential of data to enable 100% clean energy.

Code Hobbits started eight years ago as a homemade classroom to teach code to children.

It has since grown into a programme teaching cutting-edge technologies such as machine learning, artificial intelligence and autonomous driving to more than 1000 secondary school pupils every year.

Mr Malik's "day job" as chief data officer at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory allows him to focus on adoption of renewable energy.

For the past three years he has been working on developing a machine learning-based analytics platform called VADER for the US department of energy.

To support that work, he led the development of blockchain-based technology, allowing access to high-quality data.

He believes the technology can be applied to other areas such as healthcare, emergency services and cybersecurity.

"New Zealand has regulatory support for climate action, clean energy start-ups and decentralisation technologies like blockchain," Mr Malik said.

"My research work is at the intersection of these areas and could be a wonderful fit."

He hoped to spend the majority of his time in New Zealand making connections with current and past EHF fellows, academia and the start-up community, Mr Malik said.

Ms Cole said the EHF would soon be taking applications for the seventh group of cohorts.

Application fees varied, starting at $300 for Kiwi applicants, $US500 ($NZ785) for entrepreneurs and $US1150 for investors.

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