Veteran surf life saver Mark Goodhew, who has 44 patrolling seasons under his belt, has invented a ''boat in a box'' with a rigid hull which he hopes will make work easier for the volunteers patrolling New Zealand shoreline.
What does your business do?
The Air Hull business was developed around a concept that manifested itself about three years ago, through my years of life saving at Muriwai. There had been no new innovation in actual rescue craft at the time and the current rescue craft that surf life saving is using is inherently not manoeuvrable because its doesn't have a rigid hull, however, the issue with surf life saving is that there are safety factors around actually having a rigid hull boat. The boats for life saving range in length from 3.5m to 4.3m With a floor they weigh about 55kg. A handful of craft have been made by a Kumeu business out of a highly durable synthetic rubber, hypalon. They are priced at around $12,000 to $15,000.
What was the motivation for starting the business?
Around three years ago I had been using the hypalon product that was being produced by a European company and I came up with a concept to re-engineer how I used it to turn it into a hull with a deep 'v'.
The concept was it's a soft hull, however when it's inflated it then becomes rigid like a rigid hull without the impact.
My main motivation was to give something back to Surf Life Saving, initially, and thereafter looking at building on the technology. It was really a concept out of necessity to try and get something that would possibly operate better.
The rescue craft it is currently using is very hard on people and as you get older, you certainly notice the impact, whereas the type of hull we've designed now actually enables a softer ride.
The were a bunch of things around Surf Life Saving which really got the inspiration started, however we then soon realised there [were] potential applications in different markets and fields.
How has or will your invention help Surf Life Saving?
One of the areas we feel it is going to support is the safety and comfort for the crew - surf life savers using the craft. Many who have tested the craft give the feedback that it is much more forgiving than the current ones being used.
What are your long-term plans?
The long-term plan is to progress into the global market. Our view, however, is where we're going with the product is likely to be a global licensing arrangement rather than trying to build up our own manufacturing facilities. There are global players out there with manufacturing facilities, and we have five global operators that we're actually looking at introducing the design and innovation to.
What challenges do you face with the technology?
One of the key aspects we have identified that's going to challenge us is taking an innovation here in New Zealand, and taking the step from between New Zealand being small, and medium manufacturers, effectively going into the global markets - getting into markets and maintaining security of the actual design. Our way of doing that is selling the license rather than trying to globally market the product.
We're hoping the relationships in the patent are going to protect our designs and gives us a path to market with a new innovation.
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The capitalisation we would need as a small company out of New Zealand to get to the marketplaces is almost impossible.
We're in conversation with New Zealand Trade and Enterprise, and Callaghan Innovation to get around that, and that is part of our two-year strategy.
The reality is, and where we're at, is we've done the development, we've secured the IP, successfully put in a patent application with AJ Park and we've productionised the product so it can be produced. The next step is having a look at partnerships to get the product out in the marketplace.
How much competition are you facing currently?
The competition is already in the marketplace ... so effectively we become another product in a very well-catered for market.
We see ourselves as sitting at the upper end of the market, however, we're hoping the relationships in the patent are going to protect our designs and gives us a path to market with a new innovation, which crosses between a rigid hull and a soft-bottom boat.
What advice do you give to other people wanting to start a business?
Make sure that everything around a product [is patented] ... and that those are set in place before you start going to the marketplace.