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Wish we’d thought of that: Kickass accelerators and incubators

The 2017 New Zealand Innovation Awards are open for entries. If you’ve got an amazing product, service, process or venture – or you know someone who needs to be shoulder-tapped – now’s the time to get it out there. And to help encourage entries and showcase the categories, we’re going to be regularly showcasing the best innovations we come across. We focus next on performance improvement, process improvement, accelerator programmes, innovation and idea programmes.

R9 Accelerator

The R9 Accelerator brings the public and private sectors together to work on real-world problems that affect businesses. Solution-focused, the R9 Accelerator makes it easier for businesses to interact with government thanks to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE). The R9 Accelerator has the ability to develop and test solutions quickly, and then share expertise with the public. It also enables private sector entrepreneurs to mentor or partner with public sector staff, creating change in a low-risk, low-cost way.

Spark Ventures

Spark Ventures had a mandate to pursue the development of new business, new customer solutions and digital experiences. In just three years, they’ve done just that, developing a portfolio of ten new businesses, generating significant revenue and engaging with more than 500,000 New Zealand customers in the highly competitive digital market. Lightbox, Skinny, and Qrious are just a few examples of new, innovative Spark Ventures that have made waves thanks to their aggressive marketing and the use of technology in new and exciting ways.

Lightning Lab XX

About providing a solution to the serious gender imbalance in all areas of business, this kickass programme is all about working to achieve fair, equitable diversity in the workplace. As programme director Laura Reitel told Idealog in 2015: “Women often walk a tightrope between being liked and being respected whereas men do not. This bias creates a double bind for women that should be acknowledged and fixed. We make entrepreneurship accessible by opening doors to capital, mentorship, business development, customer acquisition and leadership skills so teams can successfully prove, build and launch their ideas into market,”

As PledgeMe CEO Anna Guenther said in the same article: “The lack of women in business, tech, and governance worries me. There’s an insidious unconscious bias that ‘we’re just hiring the most skilled candidate’ when the preconceived notion of skilled is often stale, pale, and male. We need to reshape how we hire, how we work, and what we value, if we’re going to have a more equitable country and more supportive ecosystem.”

Lightning Lab Electric

New Zealand’s first-ever energy accelerator programme launched this year. Lightning Lab Electric certainly has some big sponsors, too, what with Westpac, Genesis Energy, General Electric, Unison Group, Z Energy, New Zealand Trade & Enterprise, Callaghan innovation and Creative HQ all involved. And it can also rely on the legacy of the Lightning Lab name, which has run seven successful programmes across Aotearoa, helping 63 companies get more than $12 million in seed financing. And the fact that investments, IPOs and acquisitions are on the rise (as the latest Investor’s Guide to the Technology Sector report explains), and it would seem like now is an ideal time to get into the sector.


It’s no secret that business incubators seem to be the big thing in Aotearoa at the moment. Name the location or industry, and odds are that someone has an incubator – or maybe two. It’s not just the private sector that’s gotten onboard the incubator train, either. Wellington’s own Te Papa has also jumped on board with the launch of Mahuki.

The idea of Mahuki – which means “perceptive” and relates to ideas that spring to the mind – is a relatively simple one, innovation hub general manager Tui Te Hau told Idealog last year. “These types of hubs can really invigorate and add vibrancy to organisations. We see the opportunities being in both enterprise and [museum] experience. The calibre of the teams and their ability to execute is the most important of all.”

Now in its second year, the programme works with organisations at the cutting edge of technology across experience, museum or creative enterprise and learning innovation. 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.

 Do you have an innovation worth celebrating? Check out the categories for the 2017 Innovation  Awards, and tell your story by clicking here

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