This article was published on 31 May 2021
Working at the forefront of helping customers harness the energy beneath their feet has also helped MB Century snare the title of one of NZ’s most innovative hi-tech businesses.
The Taupō-based company – which provides geothermal drilling, engineering and engineering maintenance services to the power-generation sector – was named Callaghan Innovation Hi-Tech Māori Kamupene o te Tau/Māori Company of the Year at the 2021 NZ Hi-Tech Awards.
The awards, which are run by the not-for-profit Hi-Tech Trust, were announced on Friday (28 May) at a gala dinner at Auckland’s Spark Arena attended by a record crowd of nearly 1,300, including Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Auckland Mayor Phil Goff.
Four other innovative Māori-led businesses were recognised as finalists in the Hi-Tech Māori Kamupene o te Tau category, including AgriSea, Jobloads, NZ Trade Group and Weirdly.
Owned by the Tuaropaki Trust – which has interests in everything from geothermal power generation, to food and nutraceuticals, to communications – MB Century has carved a reputation as a centre of excellence in harnessing geothermal energy.
The business's innovative work in the sector includes the development of its Multi-Finger High Temperature Casing Calliper (HTCC) – a tool used to assess the condition of geothermal wells (and therefore their safety) with significantly more accuracy than incumbent solutions.
The technology was developed with support from multiple partners, including Callaghan Innovation, which provided a Project Grant in 2015, as well as the Product Development Management Association and the Institute of Professional Engineers NZ.
MB Century is now providing the HTCC as a service to geothermal well owners, with initial deployments to Indonesia and the Philippines, and with 8,000 geothermal wells globally, the firm’s $2 million investment in developing the technology shows significant promise of returns.
MB Century Chief Executive Greg Thompson says the award win is great recognition for the team.
“We’re extremely humbled by the award,” says Thompson.
“The organisation has been on a journey in this innovation and R&D space now for a long time. This win really points to an exciting future for the Tuaropaki Trust and the upcoming generations who will be working at MB Century as we constantly strive to stay ahead of the curve in the energy space.”
MB Century, along with AgriSea and NZ Trade Group, have collectively accessed a range of Callaghan Innovation support, including R&D Fellowship, Project, and Growth Grants (the latter now replaced with the R&D Tax Incentive).
Aroha Armstrong, Group Manager of Māori Economy at Callaghan Innovation, noted the incredible diversity among this year’s finalists – whose offerings cover everything from improving connectivity for tradies, and streamlining recruitment, to developing biostimulants for the primary sector, and providing geothermal and energy solutions.
“It’s exciting to see so many Māori innovators developing tech solutions that have the wellbeing of people and the planet at the core,” she noted, “and that the world is now looking to Aotearoa for these types of innovations.”
Also finalists in the 2021 Hi-Tech Māori Kamupene o te Tau category were:
AgriSea New Zealand specialises in the manufacture of macro-algae concentrates and bioactive extractions that are used as nutritional supplements for soil, plant, and animal health. The company supplies to sectors including horticulture, agriculture, apiculture, viticulture, and dairy, both domestically and to a growing export market.
Jobloads believes that there is dignity in every job, and people can find mana at work. Jobloads is a digital labour supply solution, that gives job seekers a free platform to find and book seasonal work with ease, with more transparency around the conditions of the jobs, and find employers that tautoko or care about their people.
NZ Trade Group (NZTG) is a leading network of trade professionals. The group guides good tradespeople to be great business people by providing tools and knowledge in an affordable package, allowing them to operate their business sustainably. With technology at its core, NZTG has launched a new trade-specific software called Katipolt, an essential tool for the network.
Weirdly takes the headache out of job applicant screening by providing recruitment software that assesses every single job applicant for values alignment, before recruitment managers open their resume. This means hiring managers see the best candidates instantly, saving up to 25% processing time. Weirdly’s engaging custom candidate experience creates 40% higher engagement, a strong employer brand, and reduces bias.
The full list of 2021 NZ Hi-Tech Awards winners:
Xero Hi-Tech Young Achiever
Winner: Maria English
Visa Best Hi-Tech Solution for the Public Good
Winner: Student Volunteer Army & Custom D
IBM Most Inspiring Individual
Winner: Craig Hudson
Auckland Unlimited Most Innovative Hi-Tech Creative Technology Solution
Highly Commended: Alimetry
Callaghan Innovation Hi-Tech Maori Company of the Year
Winner: MB Century
Duncan Cotterill Most Innovative Hi-Tech Software Solution
Endace Most Innovative Hi-Tech Hardware Product
Kiwibank Most Innovative Hi-Tech Service
NZTE Most Innovative Hi-Tech Agritech Solution
Halo Consulting Best Contribution to the NZ Tech Sector
Punakaiki Fund Hi-Tech Start-up Company of the Year
Pacific Edge Hi-Tech Emerging Company of the Year
Winner: Whip Around
Highly Commended: Lawvu
Soul Machines Most Innovative Deep Tech Solution
Winner: Nanolayr (previously known as Revolution Fibres)
PwC NZ Hi-Tech Company of the Year Award
Winner: Fisher & Paykel Healthcare
Tait Communications Flying Kiwi Award
Recipient: Wayne Norrie
See the NZ Hi-Tech Awards website for more details.