A cross-government partnership hopes to lift New Zealand’s CleanTech sector. Photo / 123RF
A newly formed cross-government partnership, led by Callaghan Innovation, is aiming to lift New Zealand’s CleanTech sector and help convert local businesses into thriving and profitable businesses.
The NZ CleanTech Mission has been established to help local businesses overcome hurdles currently faced by delivering, partnering with and advocating for initiatives to bolster the country’s CleanTech ecosystem.
The joint mission is backed by New Zealand Growth Capital Partners, the Science for Technological Innovation National Science Challenge, Auckland Unlimited and Auckland UniServices.
The initiative followed a deep-dive independent report, New Zealand Climate Tech For The World, into the CleanTech sector.
The report, commissioned by Callaghan Innovation and completed by international consultants, the Cleantech Group, identified key challenges holding back NZ’s CleanTech ecosystem:
• A significant lack of private capital being raised in NZ compared to similarly sized small, advanced economies (SAEs).
• New Zealand’s geographic and economic isolation make it difficult for NZ CleanTech innovators to connect with larger, global opportunities for investment and product uptake.
• Lack of cross-government and ecosystem collaboration.
James Muir, CleanTech lead at Callaghan Innovation, said New Zealand can build a high-value export sector if given the support.
“The NZ CleanTech Mission will ensure that CleanTech is flagged as a critical priority, on a nationwide and co-ordinated level. The aim is to ensure CleanTech innovators, whether out of businesses, labs or garages, have a responsive, connected, and easy-to-navigate ecosystem of support,” he said.
“We need to support climate innovation as a step towards achieving the national and global carbon targets set by the Climate Commission.”
Key actions include developing a five-year roadmap, supercharging local and international connections, driving initiatives to improve commercialisation, and a more focused approach on selected CleanTech clusters.
A Callaghan Innovation audit of local Kiwi CleanTech businesses identified 300 CleanTech innovators working on technologies, including novel apps, plastic alternatives, new energy sources, and industrial waste processing.
Just some of the initiatives included turning household plastic into environmentally friendly high-performance fenceposts, turning pine trees into replacements for oil, and developing green hydrogen from renewable sources.
The audit showed 98 Callaghan Innovation-funded CleanTech businesses generated $334m revenue in the 2020 financial year, as well as supporting 1,860 jobs and they invested $95m in R&D with 680 high-value R&D jobs specifically.
“It’s not easy for innovators to navigate the challenging commercialisation stages of R&D and investment to translate their ideas into globally successful businesses,” Muir said.
“The New Zealand Climate Tech For The World report, for example, reveals that NZ innovators are raising 95 per cent less investment than other comparable small advanced economies.”
The New Zealand Climate Tech For The World also highlighted significant commercial opportunities for local climate innovators.
“Aotearoa has a strong agricultural foundation, so it makes sense that this is where Kiwi innovators could maximise impact in the ClimateTech space,” Muir said.
“NZ is also a frontrunner in adopting renewable energy, which now powers 85 per cent of our electrical grid. The focus from here is to leverage our strengths, existing resources, and growing appetite to explore new energy sources.”
Pam Ford, general manager – economic development for Auckland Unlimited, welcomed the partnership
Sally Davenport, director of The Science for Technological Innovation Challenge, said they were proud to partner with the other agencies to consider ways collaboration can be at the forefront of future CleanTech innovation.
“CleanTech is of growing importance in Aotearoa and internationally,” she said.
“This partnership builds on our mission to grow the capacity of our researchers and the science system to collaborate and build commercialisation pathways with Māori and industry.
“We’re looking forward to the journey ahead, and being part of a community that’s steering the innovation system toward collective impact.”
Andy Shank, chief executive of Auckland UniServices, said: “As the company that leads the commercialisation of University of Auckland research and supports the research and development needs of New Zealand’s CleanTech sector, UniServices is proud to be part of a partnership aiming to make New Zealand a world leader in CleanTech.”
“By coming together across the whole ecosystem, policymakers, researchers and entrepreneurs will be able to respond to the greatest needs and opportunities.”