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Lower Hutt home to NZ's first ever manufacturing startup hub

New Zealand’s first ever manufacturing accelerator is officially open for business, following a launch event in Lower Hutt last week.

Lightning Lab Manufacturing is the fifth Lightning Lab to run since its inception in 2013, and the first in New Zealand to centre around hardware.

It targets startups who are building or have built physical products, and is designed to aid them in rapidly accelerating their companies.

As of yet, Lightning Lab Manufacturing has eight hardware startups signed up for the three month programme.

The programme is run by Creative HQ with support from Callaghan Innovation, Grow Wellington and the Hutt City Council.

Shawn O’Keefe, Lightning Lab Manufacturing director, says the interest in this inaugural manufacturing programme has been huge, with more than 50 applications from across NZ and offshore.

“We are opening a whole new door for the startup community and investors”, says O’Keefe.

“We know that ‘hardware is hard’, so it’s even more critical that we help these early stage businesses get off the launch pad.

“These teams need to be design-led and customer-focused, aware of the latest trends in manufacturing technology and have a clear strategy for getting their products off the drawing board and into the marketplace,” he says.

Included in the initial eight startups are Dogmatek, specialising in audio effects units that combine analogue and digital electronics; Kine6, the makers of wireless, outdoor motion capture technology; and BPOD, the creators of smart baby products that can adapt to the needs of parents and babies.

As part of the programme, startups will each receive $15,000 seed funding, as well as intensive mentorship and business development throughout the 12 weeks in the Lower Hutt space.

The three month programme will finish with a Demo Day in late November, which gives the teams a chance to pitch their companies to a packed room of investors. Previous Lightning Lab Demo Day events have raised more than $5 million of investment to date.

Teams are given access to a network of more than 100 mentors, interns and advisors from across New Zealand and around the globe, who share experiences, confront assumptions and test teams’ fortitude while sharing a network of expertise, experience and connections.

Lower Hutt City Council is a key supporter of the manufacturing programme, and is hosting the Lab in a former retail space within the CBD.

Ray Wallace, Lower Hutt Mayor, says that the teams represent a vital part of the region’s manufacturing history and future.

“Lower Hutt is home to many of the Wellington region’s high value manufacturers. We are excited to see these young businesses being given a head start, and developing the next generation of products that can be exported around the world.

“Manufacturing companies employ designers, engineers, science and business graduates amongst many others, providing great career paths for our youth, and vitality for our communities,” says Wallace.

Callaghan Innovation is also supporting this project, as it aligns with its mission to help businesses of all sizes succeed through technology.

“As the lead organisation supporting the commercialisation of science and technology-led innovation in New Zealand, we are pleased to be involved in this inaugural hardware accelerator,” says Jesse Keith, Callaghan Innovation National Technology Network manager for Design and Manufacturing.

“We support high-tech and design-led businesses across all sectors, through the expanded nationwide business incubator network as well as providing R&D services, advice and funding to the high value manufacturing sector.

“As well as our direct support for the team running the Lightning Lab, we are using our extensive national and international networks to help these ventures make the connections they need to succeed.”

Gerard Quinn, Grow Wellington CEO, says he sees the teams as a cross-section of the region’s dynamic and creative economy.

“The products include film industry tech, cloud-enabled products, sporting goods and agri-tech, with environmental responsibility being a strong theme.

“It will be exciting to see the creative collisions that occur as these teams grow and connect with the wider manufacturing base across the region," Quinn sa