Tauranga company Balex Marine's decision to set a tight deadline to commercialise its Automatic Boat Loader by launching at last weekend's Hutchwilco New Zealand Boat Show has paid off.

The company won the award for Most Innovative Local Product, a new category created to recognise innovation in a marine application, at New Zealand's biggest boating expo.

The company also just learned that it had made the finals of the Page Macrae Engineering Innovation in Exports category of next month's Export New Zealand Bay of Plenty export awards.

"It was beyond our expectations to get the Hutchwilco award at our first product launch," said managing director Paul Symes, who accepted the award with inventor Lex Bacon.


Mr Bacon had been working on the idea in various forms for more than 10 years before entrepreneur Paul Symes invested into the business along with product development company Locus Research at the end of last year. The Automatic Boat Loader uses a powered roller system to automatically launch or recover a boat on to a trailer.

"The last five months have been a whirl of activity, and the award is hugely satisfying for the whole team," said Locus Research research director Jono Jones, who with Mr Symes led a team that was involved in a hydraulic design, through structural and chemistry issues, down to brand and graphics.

"It's been an extremely quick process considering the many facets that had to be investigated," said Locus Research director Tim Allen. "But we wanted market validation and the only way to get true validation is to get it out there as quickly as you can."

Mr Symes said the launch at the boat expo had been a resounding success.

"We ended up with over 1000 people completing surveys," he said. "We had interest ranging from key tradespeople and boat manufacturers and resellers, to end users."

The award was judged by well-known marine journalist Barry Thompson.

Mr Symes said the system also provided a platform for other innovative products and that with more than 90,000 trailer boats sold annually in North America and 30,000 in Australia, the export opportunities were significant.

The team is gearing up for the final development refinements and gearing up for manufacturing.


Mr Symes said he was now beginning a capital-raising process to fund the next phase, which would include approaching start-up angel investors as well as bank financing.

"There were a number of lessons learned and key refinements coming out of the prototype testing, we will be incorporating those ready for a commercial release, which we are hoping to have ready in three months," he said.