Southland’s reputation for innovation is continuing to grow with Venture Southland securing Govenment funding to run a business accelerator programme in the region.

Venture Southland business services manager Alistair Adam said the Callaghan Innovation programme, contracted through Wellington’s Creative HQ, represented a major boost for start-up businesses and entrepreneurs in Southland.

“The goal is taking the existing framework, and putting a Southland twist on it, to create a unique Southland-based innovation eco-system.”

The programme would build on complementary programmes during the past four years involving hundreds of Southland businesses around the likes of product development, lean manufacturing, mentoring and introductory workshops on innovation.

Creative HQ has run successful innovation and start-up programmes in Wellington for more than a decade.

Dunedin tech pioneer Stu Fleming has been contracted to deliver the structured programme in Southland which takes the best parts of the most successful accelerator programmes around New Zealand and folds them into a regional package.

Venture Southland accelerator programme manager, Stu Fleming

“This programme works with start-ups and entrepreneurs on their own terms and gives them direction and tools to help them achieve their goals,” Adam said.

Definitions of innovation were sometimes a bit vague with many picturing reinvention-of-the-wheel type projects, he said.

“In reality it usually involves step change, which means a sudden or major change in the way that something happens, or the way a business operates. This might be around a new piece of machinery – or a new business process.”

Engineering and food processing businesses were two examples where innovation was being employed in subtle ways in Southland – such as through electrical process changes which can save businesses thousands or millions of dollars a year, Adam said.

Digitising of services to expand a business was another example of innovation, he said.

The accelerator programme also complements the millions of dollars of Research and Development funding which Venture Southland helps Southland businesses secure every year.

Venture was planning several events and activities early in 2018 to further highlight the significant amount of work going on in the innovation space in Southland, Adam said.