UniServices’ new Pacific business development director says relationships lead to results

UniServices has appointed a new Pacific business development director to build and nurture key business relationships with the Pacific community.

Pedro van der Ent

UniServices has appointed a new Pacific business development director to build and nurture the organisation’s key business relationships with Aotearoa’s local Pacific community and our Pacific Island neighbours.

With a career that had its beginnings in the military, Pedro van der Ent has a wide range of cross-sectoral experience in business and management, most recently as general manager of start-up CareHQ, a virtual GP service. He’s also the volunteer board chair for the Make-A-Wish Foundation in the Pacific region.

“Pedro brings to the role over 20 years of experience working mainly in general management, business development, client relationship management and human resources,” says UniServices Executive Director of Strategic Growth Greg Murison. “We are very fortunate to have someone with his skills and experience join us in this critical role as we work to realise our ambitious goals to support our Pacific communities through research and research-informed services.”

“I’m impressed with what UniServices does and how it works across multiple industry sectors, government and private funders,” said van der Ent, who praises the organisation’s drive to improve technology and community services.

Relationships are at the heart of van der Ent’s newly created role, and he prefers to build them kanohi ki te kanohi (face to face), which will mean regularly spending time in the Pacific.

Born in New Zealand, van der Ent has Samoan and Dutch heritage and has spent a lot of time in Samoa, as well as in Fiji, the Cook Islands and Papua New Guinea. He’s set to re-establish connections from those places as well as forging new ones in some of the islands he hasn’t visited.

“I think it’s timely because there’s an enormous amount of focus going into Pacific communities in Aotearoa as well as investment into our Pacific neighbours,” he says.

Not only have Pacific islands experienced political upheaval and the environmental instability brought about by climate change, they have also been lashed by Covid-19 and are only just starting to reopen and reconnect.

“New Zealand has realised that it has to step up as a partner and get involved where possible to help with investment and supporting those populations.  We have a strong history with the Pacific and we will always be inextricably linked,” says van der Ent.

Alongside the value of connection, getting “runs on the board” – meeting the deliverables of key projects – is another important way that van der Ent aims to build trust with stakeholders, starting with those closer to home. 

“My plan for the first three months is to build key relationships across different faculties, partners, funders and the various ministries in Wellington.”

Van der Ent’s role sits within the Strategic Growth Team, which forges connections between Waipapa Taumata Rau, University of Auckland, researchers and industry, with the endgame of delivering positive community impacts.

Spread across different portfolios, the team works with early-stage research – the building blocks to solving the problems of the future – right through to immediately deliverable ideas.

Van der Ent’s work is cross-portfolio, getting involved wherever there is a Pacific thread, though his primary portfolio is CABLE (creative arts, arts, business, law and education).

The beauty of UniServices, says van der Ent, is the team of experts at the disposal of academic researchers and entrepreneurs and the fact it’s not for profit. UniServices has in-house legal and contract writing experts, start-up specialists and people constantly looking for funding and investment opportunities.

In many ways, van der Ent’s role will build on the work that has already gone into the Pacific.

“UniServices and the University of ӰAPPhave good reputations across the Pacific for being involved with different projects and delivering funding to different groups,” says van der Ent.

Once projects are set up, a lot of research continues in-country, says van der Ent, pointing out the resilience and desire of Pacific people to be self-sustaining.

Meanwhile, he’s excited to get started on the mahi at home.

“Some of the things we’re doing in partnership with the University of ӰAPPare cutting edge. It’s exciting to be part of an organisation that is genuinely passionate about what it does and involved with such a variety of work.”