Experts in innovation are urging Kiwi firms to aim high and celebrate their success.

Entries are open for the annual New Zealand International Business Awards (NZIBA), which celebrate the success of New Zealand businesses on the world stage and recognise excellence and innovation.

This year marks half a century of the prestigious awards, run by New Zealand Trade and Enterprise (NZTE).

Callaghan Innovation is the government agency helping Kiwi businesses develop and commercialise technology.


Callaghan Innovation is one of the awards sponsors and it is supporting the special category Excellence in Innovation, which recognises success in developing and commercialising innovation in international markets.

Its chief executive Dr Mary Quin said there are many innovative New Zealand firms exporting world-leading products that would benefit from entering these awards.

"These businesses don't just come up with a lot of new ideas; they have a deep understanding of what customers need and involve them during the development process," she said.

NZTE's awards convenor of judges and author of Innovation in New Zealand, David Downs, said the judges will be looking for companies who can show how they have taken a customer-centred view of innovation, to create products and services that consumers really desire, with a strong path to commercialisation.

When it comes to exporting and innovation, Quin urges Kiwi companies to think big.

She wants more Kiwi firms to become more ambitious and aware of the importance of technology to their export success.

"Successful innovators are prepared for their market and smart businesses are keeping an eye on technologies that could disrupt their business, not just now or next year, but in five or more years," she said.

Tips for Innovation

To succeed in innovation, Quin said a business needs to build it into their company.


"Very little is totally new in innovation. Most innovation is the result of an evolving process of improvement or a new use of existing technology. This is one of the reasons it needs to be part of business DNA," she said.

NZTE's global network of trade commissioners are first to see the benefits of innovation for Kiwi firms.

Trade Commissioner in London, Daniel Taylor, said the UK is a mature, sophisticated and highly-competitive market.

"This means that innovation is critical. If a company's product or service offering doesn't answer a clear customer need better than anyone else, they're going to struggle," said Mr Taylor, adding that innovation takes many forms.

New Zealand companies could improve their international competitiveness by adopting more innovative solutions to winning new customers and building an international business.

"It's not just the product or service itself, but also elements like channel to market, customer segment targeted, and even the framing of the customer problem being solved.

Without innovation you just become part of the pack, and that's not where New Zealand wants to be."

NZTE's Trade Commissioner in Sydney, Alan Munro, said innovative business models are just as important as innovative products and services.

"New Zealand companies could improve their international competitiveness by adopting more innovative solutions to winning new customers and building an international business," Munro said.

He gave an example in Australia's food and beverage sector, where retailers are looking for differentiation for their shoppers.

"Exclusivity is a key word and this could be in pack size, flavour, or format. New Zealand customers need to start thinking how they can have a differentiated offer to each retailer because a one size fits all approach is becoming far less compelling for the retail buyers in this market," Munro said.


The winner of last year's NZIBA Excellence in Innovation category, the refrigeration technology company Milmeq, has made innovation an intrinsic part of the company's ethos (read more in the following story).

Exporters entering the NZIBA choose one of three main categories depending on their size, and they can also enter multiple special categories of which there are six.

During the last 50 years of the NZIBA, many of New Zealand's most iconic companies have been celebrated in the awards hall of fame, including Tonka, Tip Top and the Apple and Pear Marketing Board (now ENZA). To celebrate 50 years of business icons, a special exhibition has been created that will be on display at the awards ceremony in November.

ANZ has been the awards strategic partner since 2009. The awards other sponsors are KPMG, MFAT, Callaghan Innovation, Kotahi, MBIE, Te Puni Kōkiri and Treasury.

Entries for the NZIBA are open, and close July 8. To find out more about the awards click here.