Innovation, innovation, as far as the eye can see…

Innovation, innovation, as far as the eye can see…
I’ve had the joy today of being one of the judges of the 2015 New Zealand Innovators Awards, along with around 15 others. And I’m fizzing. The innovation ecosystem in New Zealand is alive and well, and has given birth to 371 great entries across 9 categories this year, covering Design and Engineering, Health Science, Social Enterprise and others – including Agritech. Yes, “boring old” Agritech - more on that shortly.

Firstly I’ll wallow in a bit of self-pity – judging awards is not an easy task. It typically involves a substantial amount of reading, and in this day and age, it now also involves trolling through websites and watching YouTube clips of products that do things so clever and important that you have to watch the video twice even to try to understand what they do… more on that shortly too.

Then, once you’ve managed to assimilate all the product info, company bio, vision, and a good dollop of description of their target market – you are forced to come up with some sort of comparative ranking, often between products as different as chalk and cheese. (For the record, in this year’s awards, there are no chalk-based products that I noticed, but as for cheese, well, this is New Zealand, gotta have some representation of coagulated casein.)

But tough as it is (the choosing, not the cheese), judge we must. And at the end of the day, the judges all agreed that the crop of entries, finalists and of course winners are a great sign for the health of the NZ innovation system.  By now, hopefully your interest is piqued, and so I can now reveal that the winners are… embargoed until 21st October.

I see the marriage of clever technology and our traditional strengths as a nation as a huge benefit, not something to be shy of or coy about. Agritech builds on our amazing history as an innovative farming nation and adds clever technology smarts, opening up great opportunities.

I had two other overarching feelings from this scan across New Zealand’s future: firstly (and this is straying firmly into the area of ‘David’s personal opinion’), I see the marriage of clever technology and our traditional strengths as a nation as a huge benefit, not something to be shy of or coy about. Agritech builds on our amazing history as an innovative farming nation and adds clever technology smarts, opening up great opportunities. People who poo-poo this ignore a great comparative advantage for NZ. Boo, you poo-pooers.

Second observation – we may be great at innovating, but we are not good at telling our story convincingly and with passion. Clearly that’s a gross generalisation, but it was bewildering to see some entries who clearly had great products and services, but which were poorly articulated or missing a compelling story. As judges, we strove to get past that, but as a passionate advocate for NZ success on the world stage, it reinforced to me that telling a strong, compelling story is a core need for businesses, particularly as they go into the big wide world, and it’s a skill our business leaders need to keep building.

Overall though, the 371 submissions we saw told a story of a nation rich with innovation, from people with clever ideas and the tenacity to see them through, and with the potential to really make a difference. Can’t wait until we get to talk about them all as the awards process continues.

Idealog is a foundation sponsor of the 2015 Innovation Awards, and will be announcing the finalists on  10 September. The winners (including Idealog's People's Choice award) will be announced on 21 October and in our November/December issue.