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Posted: 26 July 2017
Disappointed not to have made it through to the C-Prize finals? Our Start-up Manager, Elena Higgison gives you the low-down on other ways Callaghan Innovation can help.

Now that we’ve selected our ten finalists for C-Prize 2017, our focus has shifted from identifying exciting, new wearable innovations, to supporting them through from project to product. But with so many fantastic entrants, and a limited number of finalist slots, we’ve unfortunately had to leave some great ideas behind. But that doesn’t need to be the end of your story, as Callaghan Innovation Startup Manager, Elena Higgison, explains….

It is often said that it takes a village to raise a successful startup, and in my experience, that is absolutely true. But New Zealand is a particularly vibrant village, thanks to the combination of our smallness and our collaborative spirit. I doubt there is anywhere better prepared to ride the next wave of technology entrepreneurship.

New Zealand recently participated in the Startup Genome Ranking Report for the first time – this is a global overview of those cities deemed to have strong startup ecosystems. That analysis showed that NZ’s startup ecosystem is still in the activation phase – an early stage of ecosystem maturity – but that we’re going in the right direction. Understanding how we fit into a global context was not only useful for those of us working in the sector; it also validated our plans to step up activities further.

But we’re keen to avoid the most common pitfall of the activation phase – fragmentation of activity. It’s fantastic to have lots of people engaged in the startup sector, but we need to be really cognisant of keeping it clear and easy-to-navigate, and avoid repeatedly reinventing the wheel. As NZ’s national innovation agency, our role really is that of the connector. As I see it, we should be the first port-of-call for any NZ startup – a place they can come to for help in navigating the who, what and where of startup 101.

This year’s C-Prize contest was a milestone in NZ’s wearable technology journey, and the variety of entrants demonstrated just how rich the pipeline of ideas is here. We are keen to bring as many of them to market as we possibly can. But if you didn’t make it to the final ten, you might be wondering what’s next. 

Well, I’ll start by saying that it doesn’t matter what stage you are at. If your idea is good, we can connect you to individuals and organisations that will help grow your business. If you’re still working on your idea or design, we can provide you with the tools you’ll need to navigate the (occasionally-stressful) initial market validation phase. If you already have a prototype, and have perhaps started on beta tests or sales, then we can connect you with an incubator to get you in front of investors. If an accelerator programme is more suitable, we can also advise you on the best one to apply for.

And it’s important to say that we can support you regardless of your location. Our incubator network is expanding reach into regions that haven’t previously been on the grid. And we have Regional Business Partner advisors in 14 regions that are the front door to business support, which includes Callaghan Innovation services, NZTE and Business Mentors, and well as specific regional programmes. We know that it takes resilience, determination and all those other ‘x-factor’ qualities to get an idea over the line, so, supporting founders and their team is a key priority of ours.

Take Spalk, for example. They came out of Auckland University – a group of friends who turned a hobby into a great business idea. Their technology allows sports enthusiasts to live-commentate their favourite events, and for sports broadcasters to offer multiple audio channels for different audience demographics. Spalk got their first break when they participated in the Vodafone Xone accelerator program, which we’re a partner in. They were then supported to develop their prototype further via an R&D project grant with our Regional Business Partner Network. They travelled to the Consumer Electronics Show earlier this year as part of our NZ start-up delegation, where they met with some of the biggest names in sports broadcast. On arriving back, Spalk connected to the Icehouse, who helped them secure another round of investment. They’re doing fantastically, and we are delighted to have supported them along the way.

That’s where my passion really lies – in joining the dots between the people with ideas, and the networks that can help turn them into reality. So, to anyone who hasn’t made it through to the C-Prize finals, my advice is to keep your head up, keep working, and keep in touch. We’re here to help.

For more details, visit: or email

Posted: 13 July 2017
Keep track of innovation agency news from around the world with this blog post series by Callaghan Innovation’s International Manager Cliff Fuller.



The Blockchain has been highlighted in reports by the Australian Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation’s (CSIRO) Data 61 programme. The reports look at possible opportunities and barriers for blockchain technology, with the only successful scaleable use so far being cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin.  

Australian medical device companies are taking part in a life sciences business accelerator in the Texas Medical Center in Houston, USA, as part of a “Bio-Bridge” initiative. Callaghan Innovation is working with CMDT to lead a delegation of New Zealand businesses to Houston in October 2017.  




The Danish Dairy co-operative, Arla Foods, has invested in a multi-million dollar global innovation centre for natural dairy products as part of the Danish food cluster in Aarhus. The Danes came to New Zealand earlier this year and are keen on building stronger links with our food industry. 

In a move that highlights the importance of international collaboration, an “Innovation Denmark Centre” has opened in Tel Aviv, Israel (the ultimate start-up nation), to bring together Danish and Israeli innovation partners and facilitate new opportunities for collaboration and learning from each other. There are seven Danish innovation centres around the world. New Zealand offers similar services through NZTE and other providers, like the Kiwi Landing Pad in San Francisco.  




The “circular economy” is a new model for generating growth based on recycling resources and renewable energy. Finland has a programme for changing from a linear to a circular economy, supported by the SITRA innovation fund, and recently hosted a forum that attracted 1,500 participants form 75 countries. Finland is now working with India to help them adopt their own circular economy approach. Energy and the environment are one of the seven sector priorities for Callaghan Innovation, and so we’ll be watching this programme with interest. Read more online at, and




Fintech (financial technology) is an important growth sector in Ireland as that country explores digital solutions to challenges in the banking sector. Several Irish companies leading disruption of the payments market attended Money 2020 in Copenhagen. Fintech plays a major part in Callaghan Innovation’s SaaS programme, which will include a delegation to SaaStr 2018 in San Francisco. Read more online at and




Singapore’s A*STAR (Agency for Science, Technology and Research) is working in a consortium to develop and commercialise 3D metal printing technologies. The first homegrown Additive Manufacturing Centre has been opened in a partnership with the private sector. The Singaporean government has committed S$3 billion over five years to develop the Advanced Manufacturing and Engineering domain, in which additive manufacturing is a key enabling technology. 

Singapore has also identified four frontier technologies in the digital economy that it wants to increase capability in: Artificial Intelligence (AI) and data science; Cybersecurity; Immersive media (VR/AR); and the Internet of Things (IoT).   



South Korea

The Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) in Daejon has developed a new Artificial Intelligence automatic face recognition system called K-Eye series. KAIST is reputed to be the most innovative university in Asia for advanced sciences, based on patent filings and citations in research papers. Read more online at and,




Innovate UK is promoting Industry 4.0 to radically improve the productivity and competitiveness of manufacturing in the UK. Innovate UK (like many others) is calling this the fourth industrial revolution in the way we design, produce and use manufactured goods, and is helping SMEs take action on Industry 4.0 strategies. Callaghan Innovation recently led a delegation of twelve companies with NZMEA to Hannover Messe and a programme of Industry 4.0 visits, and a similar visit to Australia is being considered.  


Contact Cliff Fuller

Twitter: @cliftonjfuller 

Posted: 13 June 2017
The latest news from New Zealand's start-up sector

Over the last couple of months, we have seen some fantastic ideas validated, businesses built, capital raised, some fast fails, priceless learning, and good times all around – congratulations to all of you!

With a number of our accelerators beginning to wrap up, we would like to extend a huge thank you to our partner organisations who passionately deliver such amazing programmes to New Zealand start-ups.

And what’s next? As we approach the end of the first half of the year, we are excited about what is coming up for the second half. Keep your eyes peeled for some big announcements later in June.

First exit for Lightning Lab

Lots of buzz around the first successful exit from Lightning Lab 2013 programme in Wellington. Publons has been acquired by Clarivate Analytics - a strategic partner for the company. Publons provides a platform that gives academics credit for the peer review work they do, and whose mission is to "speed up science through the power of peer review". An awesome outcome for the founders, and for the angel investors to see a return in just 4 years time. A great example that shows the value that our accelerator programmes provide for passionate and driven kiwi entrepreneurs.  

Sprout agritech muster day

Sprout agtech muster day

Sprout Agritech Accelerator held its muster day on 21 April at Fonterra HQ in Auckland. Seven teams pitched at muster day: Ceratech, Ectosolutions, Elastic Green, FTek, Knowby, Pinpoint Diagnostics, and Tribal.  

Sprout fills a gap for entrepreneurs with great ideas to disrupt the agri sector. In its second year, it is continuing to gain recognition as an internationally recognised agritech accelerator program. We will be working alongside the Sprout team to ensure the start-ups have a transition plan for life after the accelerator. See the end of programme report for more info. Bring on year three of Sprout!

KFA wraps up

KFA wraps up

Demo Day for the Kiwibank Fintech Accelerator (KFA), co-funded by Callaghan Innovation and run by Creative HQ, was hosted on 19 May on Wellington’s waterfront. Seven teams completing the accelerator pitched to a full theatre of investors, advisors, and entrepreneurs: Wicket, Liberac, National Account Registry, Sharesies, Accounting Pod, Teddy, and Flatfish.

Representing Callaghan Innovation, Vic Crone was a guest speaker alongside Paul Brock (Kiwibank CEO), and Chris Teeling (Xero, Head of Group Strategic Initiatives and Ventures).

Some of the start-ups who presented at demo day are maintaining good press coverage (Sharesies), and will be working towards securing funding from investors.

This event marks the ending of the Kiwibank Fintech Accelerator, and the teams will be wrapping up and planning the next steps on their journey. Again, we will be working with Creative HQ to assist these startups. 

Lightning Lab Electric to kick off

Lightning Lab Electric has announced the four ventures that will be participating in its energy sector accelerator programme on 12 June, wrapping up with a Demo Day on September 7: Polyanio, emhTrade, Mitton Electric, and Ampli. These four ventures “represent the enormous scope of the energy industry” and will “assist in developing innovative solutions to meet the sector’s changes and bring disruptive concepts to market”, says Programme Director Brett Holland. Our Energy and Environment Sector Team was part of the selection committee and will be a specialist advisor available to the teams throughout the duration of the programme. Touch base with the team if you would like to know more or be involved. All the best to the startups.

Electric Innovation Challenge winner

A precursor to the accelerator, Lightning Lab Electric’s Innovation Challenge called for innovative ideas in electricity and sustainable energy, and resulted in emhLab winning the top prize of $20,000. The team is now one of the four participating ventures to build its electricity innovation solutions using market validation and product development approaches trialled by companies such as Google, IDEO, and Tesla.

FLUX hosts international trio

FLUX hosts international trio

The Flux companies were lucky enough to host special guests Dom Price, Edith Yeung, and Peter Dingle on their premises on 4 April. This was a great chance for the teams to hear from some serious international innovators. Meanwhile, the teams are cracking on at an incredible pace, hurtling toward demo day on June 29. We have also seen an amazing achievement with one FLUX company closing a massive capital raise while still in incubation! Congratulations Miriana Lowrie and 1-Centre.

Bill Reichert visits from the US

Bill Reichert visits from the US

Callaghan Innovation and AUT partnered to bring Bill Reichert, Managing Director at Garage Technology Ventures and AUT Entrepreneur in Residence, to New Zealand in May. Bill, who has more than 20 years of experience as an entrepreneur and operating executive, shared insights about the US venture capital landscape and met start-ups from the Kiwibank Fintech Accelerator, Flux, Creative HQ, Bizdojo, and Astrolab. 

Wintec INNES48 – A start-up competition 

From 28-30 April, teams with big ideas gathered together for a sleepless weekend ideating, validating, and working on their pitches. This was a fantastic event run at the amazing Wintec campus in Hamilton and co-hosted by our incubator partner SODA Inc. You can see a livestream of the pitches here

R9 Accelerator 3+ Demo Day

R9 accelearator 3+ demo day

On 8 June the R9 Accelerator 3+ programme culminated with a demo day where the teams pitched their solutions to a panel of experts – and an enthusiastic audience who got to vote for their favourite team. myTrove got the most votes, winning the People's Choice Award.

Procurement for June 2017 - June 2019

We are making fantastic progress with our procurement for Founder Incubators, General Accelerators, and Maori Accelerator with contract negotiations close to wrapping up. Announcement of successful providers will begin during June – we will also be launching a marketing campaign, so keep an eye out! We’ll have some FAQs for staff available around this time too.

Upcoming events

(Date TBC) FLUX Bus Tour
29 June 2017 FLUX/The Icehouse Demo Day
7 September 2017 Lightning Lab Electric Demo Day

Is your start-up related event missing from the list? Email Start-Up Team to get it added in the next issue

Posted: 09 June 2017
The final in a blog post series by Business Innovation Advisor Nicky Molloy, following her recent agritech adventures in San Francisco.

In April I was privileged to join a delegation of businesses from New Zealand and around the world to see first hand San Francisco’s agritech industry in action. Special thanks to the Silicon Valley Forum for hosting the Seeds of Our Future AgTech Immersion Program 2017. Thanks also to NZTE, which funded the Kiwi contingent that was ably led James Wilde from NZTE, Peter Wren-Hilton from Wharf 42, and joined by Bridget Unsworth from NZVIF.

So how does NZ rate as a leader of innovation in agribusiness? In this blog series, I’ve shared some of the learnings from this trip and where NZ sits on the innovation spectrum.

Part 4 (final): Developing an innovation ecosystem around agritech in Salinas, California

Salinas is a strongly focused agriculture centre in California and with an 80-year history of growing iceburg lettuce. With large key industries moving out a number of years ago, it needed to reconsider its regional strategy to look at how it could develop an ecosystem that supports agriculture. A  collaborative effort between local government, education providers, businesses and community support agencies, this public private partnership is bringing agricultural and technology together, leveraging the region’s strengths with the aim of providing growth, developing well paid jobs, and producing a healthier environment as a result.

Key points are:

  • The local government doesn’t provide funding but acts as a convenor to clear the way for other support networks to do what they do best 
  • Education hubs such as Hartnell College work closely with businesses to understand the skill levels needed and how to support these with training modules. The College developed a computer science degree that could be completed in 3 years with businesses providing funding and internships. Examples of courses include basic applied technology degrees that cover business, computing and agricultural science through to mechanics, welding and soft skill development
  • Community projects where children as young as 4 are taught to code. About 600 students between the ages of 8 and 17 will be taken through the coding programme in the first year. This programme is free
  • The Western Growers Center for Innovation and Technology, launched in December 2015, houses start-ups including two NZ companies
  • Salinas will host, for the third year, the Forbes AgTech Summit 
  • The THRIVE Accelerator program connects the expertise of tech companies to knowledge of agricultural companies, investors, and entrepreneurs

New Zealand Home of Innovation in Agribusiness

There are fantastic initiatives happening in this city that are benefiting the whole community. What a great showcase.

Our final day included a day at Plug and Play in Silicon Valley with presentations by agritech leaders from Brazil, Israel, France, Chile, Denmark, Mexico, China, Columbia, Spain, Canada and Japan. New Zealand’s presentation, led by James Wilde from NZTE and supported by Dr Cather Simpson (Engender Technologies), Tim Cutfield (Agrigate) and Paul Whiston (LIC Automation) was a standout!

Our agritech discussions have continued - through the Farming 2020 event in May and with next week’s Fieldays. There you'll find Callaghan Innovation in the Innovations LAB, where businesses can access a free innovation knowledge bank. We'll also be launching our inaugural Award for Partnership and Collaboration, and our co-partnership of the Business & International Centre (a networking hub for international buyers and media) will see our Chief Technology Officer Dr Chris Hartshorn deliver several seminars that will explore how technology will change the future of agritech businesses - and our world. 

Deals are being done, connections are being made, and we will watch with interest over the next 12 months for the benefits that these bring to NZ.

Callaghan Innovation is a New Zealand government innovation agency that works with Kiwi companies to accelerate commercialisation of their new technology ideas.  Our specialised agritech team supports businesses through the use of technology in agriculture, horticulture, and aquaculture with the aim of improving yield, efficiency and profitability

Posted: 24 May 2017
Part 3 of a blog post series by Business Innovation Advisor Nicky Molloy, following her recent agritech adventures in San Francisco.

In April I was privileged to join a delegation of businesses from New Zealand and around the world to see first hand San Francisco’s agritech industry in action. Special thanks to the Silicon Valley Forum for hosting the Seeds of Our Future AgTech Immersion Program 2017. Thanks also to NZTE, which funded the Kiwi contingent that was ably led James Wilde from NZTE, Peter Wren-Hilton from Wharf 42, and joined by Bridget Unsworth from NZVIF.

So how does NZ rate as a leader of innovation in agribusiness? In this blog series, I’ll be sharing some of the learnings from this trip and where NZ sits on the innovation spectrum.

Part 3: What is driving Big Data, Robotics and IoT in agritech

Across the US, traditional family agriculture businesses are changing as the next generation chooses other career paths. Despite increasingly higher wages to attract workers, farm jobs are being ignored by Americans and there is a heavy reliance on foreign workers. Issues of farmers having to plough crops into the ground due to labour shortages and reducing the amount of land they crop are driving the development of robotics and automation:

However out of adversity can come opportunity; technology is also providing solutions to improving yield, efficiency and profitability while ensuring this is done sustainably. Integrated technologies where machines are smarter and can work across multiple crops are the next innovation, along with  data capture tools to assist with decision-making on farms. 

Some examples of farming innovations are:

  • Climate FieldView (bought by Monsanto in 2013 for $930 million) has built a platform to help farmers sustainably increase their productivity with digital tools that collect and analyse field data, measure performance, monitor nitrogen, and build tailored seeding prescriptions  
  • Plant Tape provides an automated transplanting system and is touted as a fast, efficient, less labour-intensive solution that eliminates a number or issues with fragility when replanting seedlings
  • Blue River Technology is an engineering tech company building the next generation of agriculture equipment that reduces chemicals and saves costs. Its machines apply chemicals only where needed ie to the weeds and not to the crop or soil
  • Trace Genomics provides microbial evaluation for soil health and disease management. A winner out of the Thrive Accelerator it combines genomics, bioscience, data and machine learning to provide farmers with insights

So what does the future of farming look like? Big data, robotics and the IoT all feature along with the ability to take outdoor farming indoors. Take a look here:

Part of the challenge in NZ is that we have a tendency to focus on local solutions. The US trip gave us an insight into some of the issues outside NZ, the challenges and opportunities that are emerging, and the size of the export opportunity if you get it right.

A number of Kiwi companies are focusing on developing a solution to a single problem. However what we need to do better as an innovation community is collaborate and bring multiple companies together to provide a more integrated solution that has a stronger export appeal. As we innovate, we need to be thinking early on about who we could be working with and who we could be collaborating with.

We have the ability in NZ to work with farmers who have traditionally been early adopters of innovation, but we need to keep a global vision in mind when developing this technology. More on that in my next blog.

Coming next week – Part 4: Developing an Innovation Eco-system around agritech

Callaghan Innovation is a New Zealand government innovation agency that works with Kiwi companies to accelerate commercialisation of their new technology ideas.  Our specialised agritech team supports businesses through the use of technology in agriculture, horticulture, and aquaculture with the aim of improving yield, efficiency and profitability.