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Mahuki innovation hub returns to Te Papa

Mahuki, Te Papa's innovation hub, is returning for a second year.

Applications for the residential programme, which saw seven companies secure business opportunities with Te Papa in 2016, opened on Monday, and close on May 29. The residential programme is based at Te Papa, and begins in late July.

Te Papa is seeking applicants from across New Zealand. As in 2016, Mahuki will again recruit ten companies to develop the next generation of businesses for the culture, heritage and learning sectors. 

Mahuki can be translated as “perceptive,”and relates to ideas that spring to the mind, and to the wellspring of inspiration.

To help get the word out, Mahuki general manager Tui Te Hau is running a series of roadshows across the country for the next few weeks. She says they are looking for applications from companies or individuals who are working at the cutting edge of technology across experience, museum or creative enterprise and learning innovation.

“Mahuki is an incredibly successful innovation incubation programme that can develop a seed or startup company into the next 8i,” she explains. “We’re open to all ideas and innovations from applicants. At Mahuki we want to explore and experiment.”

Once in the programme, Mahuki entrepreneurs will have the opportunity to work with Te Papa’s experts and collections. “As part of the Mahuki programme, entrepreneurs have Te Papa in its entirety at their fingertips,” Te Hau says. “At any moment they can walk through the doors and engage with the 1.8 million visitors we have every year.”

In 2016, Te Papa invested around $1 million to establish Mahuki. An investment of $780,000 will be made for the 2017 programme, supporting up to 40 entrepreneurs across ten teams while they work, and helping them access international networks when their innovations are market-ready. This includes a $20,000 payment to each team (for up to ten teams) to enable them to solely focus on the programme. 

Te Papa has an option to exercise equity of 6 percent in the teams.  The equity stake will ensure that Te Papa benefits from successful innovations, whether or not they end up being used on the museum’s floors. It will also contribute to the sustainability of Mahuki. Successful innovations may be taken up by Te Papa and the New Zealand cultural sector, and exported globally.

Te Papa chief digital officer Melissa Firth says the potential value of the international cultural sector to New Zealand based entrepreneurs and innovators is significant. “There are 75,000 museums around the world with over one billion annual visitors,” she explains. “Mahuki can help develop some of the incredible innovation ideas coming out of New Zealand, giving us the opportunity to enhance experiences not only at Te Papa but at cultural institutions around the world.”

Mahuki aims to build on New Zealand’s strength in creative industries, alongside a rapidly growing technology sector, to boost opportunity for local creative technology businesses. Firth says Te Papa’s global reputation for innovation, and recognition as a world leader has been a huge asset to Mahuki’s offshore programme. 

“During their time at Te Papa, the companies have the chance to validate their ideas with an international market. This is vital for the research and development of their concepts.”

With its first year completed, Firth says Mahuki has proven that there is demand for an accelerator programme focused on the culture and heritage sector. “Mahuki offers very real pathways to national and international customers in the cultural sector.”

In 2016, Te Papa engaged seven business concepts developed at Mahuki, for deployment within the museum.


Wellington-based company Breadcrumb used their time in Mahuki to develop a location intelligence platform combining hardware and software that can pinpoint visitor’s location within 10cm accuracy. This can be used to develop new visitor experiences, gain insights about visitor preferences and help make resourcing decisions. Breadcrumb have attracted international interest, and are looking to grow into the China market where the culture sector is targeted to grow to five percent of the China’s GDP. 

Breadcrumb founder Lifeng Zhu believes the Mahuki programme has helped the team solidify their market opportunity. “During the Mahuki programme we were able to talk with Te Papa staff and pilot our technology on the museum floor. This has helped us build a valuable product that Te Papa and other cultural entities want.”

Upcoming Mahuki Roadshow dates and locations

Tuesday 4 April

5:00pm – 7:00 pm
Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, Len Lye Centre, New Plymouth

Wednesday 5 April

5:00pm – 7:00pm
Taupo Museum, Taupo

Thursday 6 April

5:00pm– 7:30pm

BizDojo, Christchurch

5:00pm – 7:00pm 

MTG Hawke's Bay, Napier

Friday 7 April

4:30pm – 6:00 pm

Dunedin Public Art Gallery, Dunedin

Monday 10 April – Mahuki open home (all welcome)

1:00pm – 4:00pm
Te Papa, Wellington