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Kiwi startups gear up for NZ Day of Hardware Innovation

Months of late nights, intensive mentoring and product testing comes to a head in Lower Hutt later this month, as participants in Lightning Lab Manufacturing and Callaghan Innovation’s C-Prize UAV challenge come together to pitch their offerings to potential investors.

The ‘New Zealand Day of Hardware Innovation’ will see 13 companies and individuals - seven Lightning Lab manufacturers and six C-Prize finalists - demonstrating how their products in development will change the world and help support New Zealand’s future in manufacturing technologies.

Lightning Lab Manufacturing is New Zealand’s first hardware accelerator, with seven startup ventures ranging from motion capture technology to sustainable surfboards.

The startups have been working in the Lab in Lower Hutt for three months, building and scaling businesses based on physical products.

Meanwhile the Callaghan Innovation C-Prize is a challenge, run with the NZ Film Industry, to solve one of the three big issues in using drones in filmmaking – stability in high winds, aircraft noise and automatic tracking of moving objects.

Shawn O’Keefe, Lightning Lab Manufacturing programme director, says the accepted wisdom among entrepreneurs in the digital age is that ‘hardware is hard’ and possibly best left to those overseas.

“These programmes prove Kiwis can design and develop physical products capable of competing on the world stage,” O’Keefe says. “I’ve been impressed with the collaborations formed during the Lightning Lab programme.

“We have received great support from our amazing mentors, from the investment community, our government partners and the manufacturing sector as a whole,” he says.

“The willingness for all in the region to give their time, share their expertise and networks has been really impressive to see. These ventures now have a real headstart.”

Jesse Keith, national network manager, design and manufacturing at Callaghan Innovation says they are proud to be supporting both ventures.

“Physical product design and development is hard for even an established company, so for a start-up the challenges are massive.

“Lightning Lab Manufacturing and the C-Prize are giving these highly motivated entrepreneurs the skills and connections to become the future of our innovation ecosystem.

“We have successfully connected Lightning Lab Manufacturing teams to Callaghan Innovation Research and Technical Services located in Gracefield who are able to provide high-level technical knowledge all with the desire of accelerating R&D.”

Keith says the C-Prize finalists have also had access to expertise including an introduction to the Better By Lean methodology, and meeting film industry experts to get an end-user perspective on drone use in filming.