2017 Categories

The NZ Innovation Awards covers a range of industries, sectors and specialities.

Every year we take a step back to ensure we are hitting the right note with our categories, so even if you've entered before, take a look below at the 22 categories open for 2017. We believe these categories will help you tailor your entries and make it an even easier process to enter!

How does it work?

There are 12 industry sector categories (see below). You can enter up to three of these and within each you need to choose your stream, whether it be research, social or commercial. Based on your entries in your chosen industry sectors, we'll automatically enter you in any relevant business categories, of which there are 10. Ready? Read on my friend...

Industry Sector Categories

There are twelve industry category awards open for entry. You may enter up to three categories (just make sure you create a new entry each time, under the different category headings you’ve chosen). Each entry is assessed by three evaluators in each category.
Find out more on each of these categories below.

Innovation in Agribusiness & Environment - Sponsored by Bayer New Zealand

Agribusiness is the traditional cornerstone of the New Zealand economy in a rapidly changing world. We rely heavily on our natural environment and agricultural industries for employment, export revenue and GDP. Technology, consumer expectations and innovation are transforming the sector and creating new markets. This category is open to agribusinesses and agritech of all kinds. It includes software, products, services, and any innovation targeted towards the agricultural and environmental sectors. This award celebrates innovation in farming, fisheries, horticulture, forestry, applied agricultural research and the companies that service these sectors. Innovation in this category may also overlap and connect with innovation in food & beverage and health and science. The evaluators will be looking for entries that show uniqueness and world-firsts which demonstrate a combination of economic and environmental benefits.

Innovation in Design & Engineering - Sponsored by James & Wells

This is one of the most diverse innovation categories – it encompasses all aspects of customer focused product design and engineering. Included are products, packaging, clothing all the way to infrastructure, engineering, energy, construction, architecture, marine industry and manufacturing. This diverse category celebrates the skills involved in product, manufacturing and infrastructure design and implementation. The evaluators will be looking for entries that focus on solving the needs of end-users, while creating value and opportunity.

Innovation in Education, Training & Development - Sponsored by Chartered Accountants Australia New Zealand

The education sector is being transformed by global mega-trends such as online learning, open-source education, gamification, global collaboration, peer-to-peer evaluation and a whole bunch more. Examples of innovation in this sector include up-skilling our present and future workforce, creating education and development-based businesses that export services, and evolving and transforming our approaches at universities, technical institutes, and schools. This category is open to all education, training and development-based projects, services, or businesses, whether private, public, social enterprise or commercial. The evaluators will be looking for innovations with potential for impact and global originality.

Innovation in Financial, Professional & Public Services - Sponsored by Equifax

This category celebrates organisations and individuals that demonstrate innovative ways of delivering professional, financial and public services. It is open to all types of technologies and services that are adding value to customers and end users across their industry. Entrants may include national and local government entities and agencies, banks, insurance companies, financial institutions, social enterprises, crowdfunding initiatives, consulting, coaching and training companies as well as educational and legal services.

Innovation in Food & Beverage - Sponsored by Plant & Food Research

Innovation in this category is driven by ambitious innovators who are scaling up their food, beverage, or hospitality businesses to meet customer demand in national and export markets. Innovation in this industry includes the creation of new food and drink products, brands or segments, innovative packaging, approaches to food safety, improved production techniques, and smart approaches to distribution. Major global trends in food and beverage include growing consumer expectation for health benefits, sustainability, and having a story of food creation that is reflected in authentic brand values and consumer stories. The evaluators look for examples of uniqueness and innovation, and the creation of new food categories or the transformation of existing product categories.

Innovation in Health & Science - Sponsored by Chorus

This category is open to healthcare professionals, private & public healthcare organisations, businesses, researchers and universities. We are looking for innovators whose products, services or research are focused on developing innovation to solve problems or make improvements in human health, animal health, bioscience, medical research, general science, and molecular research. Evaluators are looking for innovations that are based on new technology or new ways of applying technology, science development or commercialisation of products or services. We're also interested in new channels to market or new business models based on research in health and science. This innovation category may overlap with entries in Food & Beverage and well as Agribusiness & Environment.

Innovation in Maori Development - Sponsored by KPMG

Maori have always been natural innovators and are generally humble about achievements, leaving compliments and accolades to others. This award is about sharing success and achievements that should be celebrated. This award will provide inspiration to others to continue the Maori innovation journey. The evaluators will consider entrants’ contribution to Maori development with demonstrable positive economic, social, societal and environmental benefits.

Innovation in Media, Marketing & Communications - Sponsored by StopPress

This category celebrates organisations and individuals using unique means to bring a product, service or business to its target market. How do you tell your story and engage people’s hearts and minds to what you are selling or promoting – and engaging consumers and users in your world? This might include advertising or PR campaigns, packaging design, creative campaigns, social media, web design, events, application of gaming and different media as well as marketing initiatives across all industries. It might include the application of Artificial Intelligence (AI), Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) to provide marketing and media experiences, tools and solutions. Evaluators are looking for new approaches to understanding, targeting and engagement from end users, channels, suppliers, partners, or new markets. Be sure to give great background in how you interact with and speak with your prospects and customers/clients.

Innovation in Sustainability & Renewable Energy - Sponsored by NZ Innovation Council

This vibrant and diverse category celebrates positive change for both business and the environment.  It’s open to entries that lower carbon emissions, provide solutions to climate change, protect and improve waterways, enhance soil and improve air quality. As we move towards a low carbon economy every business and industry has the potential to be reinvented and transformed. Shift the world’s perspective with your disruptive design impacting food, air and water. We would love to hear about products and services that are improving our shared world of limits, constraints and shared resources. How are you enabling and encouraging smarter consumer choices? Do you have a unique contribution in the provision and uptake of renewable energy? Share your sustainability projects, sustainable production methods and environmental initiatives. The evaluators are also looking for product and service solutions that have considered packaging, recycling and a ‘cradle-to-cradle’ approach to reusing resources and solutions that have plenty of consumer appeal.

Innovation Systems & Performance Improvement - Sponsored by Innovation Fund powered by Westpac & All of Govt

This award celebrates excellence in performance improvement, process improvement, accelerator programs, innovation and idea programs. These programs bring new approaches to solving problems and creating value. They result in cost savings, better ways of doing things and improving the performance of our people, teams and systems. This type of innovation is a significant contributor to the growth our innovation industry in New Zealand. You will demonstrate that you have an organisation-wide culture of innovation and innovative thinking, which has or will lead to market-creating performance of your product or service, people and teams.

Innovation in Technology Solutions - Sponsored by Jade Software

Technology is central to providing a connected customer experience - in every industry. This category is open to innovators that provide technology solutions including cloud services, software, apps, hardware, and communications. It might include Artificial Intelligence (AI) applications using access to data, to provide customer service, rich experiences and business solutions, Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR) and gaming experiences and applications with industry changing potential. The evaluators in this category will be looking for customer offerings focused on solving problems and creating value through the application of technology across any industry. This is the largest NZ Innovation Awards category, so bring your entry to life with examples of customer use and impact.

Innovation in Tourism & Entertainment - Sponsored by Idealog

This hugely exciting category is new for 2017! It celebrates and recognises innovation in Tourism and Entertainment experiences. Whether you are in tourism, arts & culture, events or entertainment, the evaluators are looking for how you create unique experiences to engage audiences and showcase culture. It might include the application of gaming as rich entertainment experiences and creative businesses. The evaluators are looking for ambitious innovators who are scaling up innovative approaches to growing their businesses leading New Zealand Tourism and Entertainment industries to even greater heights.


There are also ten auto-entry categories related to stages of growth or business disciplines. You cannot enter these yourself - instead, you will be entered into these automatically if your entry fits the criteria. For example, if you submit a social innovation entry you will automatically be entered into Excellence in Social Innovation.
These auto-entry business discipline categories are below.

Innovation Excellence in Research - Sponsored by Callaghan Innovation

Research is the powerhouse of innovation. What problem is your research working towards solving and what opportunities may it create? This award is open to research of all types as well as early stage business projects that may be pre-revenue and are not yet breaking even. Funding, grants, or investment may be in place but commercial revenue generated by sales is nil or at early market test stage. The evaluators will be looking for entries that demonstrate public or private research, a strong IP component and potential application and scalability across global markets and industry sectors.

Excellence in Social Innovation - Sponsored by Sovereign

2017 is a year of positive change. Social innovation plays a key role transforming communities and solving big problems. This award celebrates social innovation, social enterprise, social entrepreneurship and not-for-profit, both in private and public organisations - all supported by a sustainable business model. Innovation is often displayed by people and teams who act out of a strong sense of belief and purpose, determined to bring great change to benefit people and society. Evaluators will look for what social issues entrants are committed to solving, the innovations they are employing to get them there and what social impact they are having.

Start-up Innovation of the Year - Sponsored by NZ Story

This category is open to start-up businesses in all industries and sectors. This award category recognises the huge commitment and challenges that face start-up businesses, and the innovation that comes from these challenges. Evaluators will be looking for a clear vision for the future, an insight into what problem/s you are solving, what opportunities you are creating, and what progress and milestones you have achieved to date. To qualify for this category you must be trading and have a turnover of less than $250k per annum. (NB: if your turnover is $250K - $1M p.a. you will be entered into the Emerging Innovation Category).

Emerging New Zealand Innovation - Sponsored by Regus

This award celebrates companies that have started their growth journey, and are trading and growing through their start-up phase and beyond. Emerging companies can be pre or post break-even as long as they are active in their markets and are growing. This entry stream is for emerging businesses and business projects, products or services that have yet to exceed NZ$1M in revenue per annum.

Disruptive & Breakthrough Innovation - Sponsored by Innovation Fund Powered by Westpac & All of Govt

This award celebrates disruption and breakthrough market-creating innovation. The category is open to businesses in every industry and every stage of growth. The evaluators want to hear how you are disrupting existing markets and creating a new market. What problems are you solving for your customers? How is your new business model tapping into changing consumer behaviours? How are you applying technology in innovative new ways? How are you challenging existing markets to create new opportunities for your business and your customers? The evaluators will be looking for your vision and skill of implementing it.

Export Innovator of the Year - Sponsored by New Zealand Trade & Enterprise

Kiwi innovation with global impact is celebrated in this award. We celebrate organisations that have achieved excellence in export innovation. Share your story of learning about access to new offshore markets and growing your business. How have you developed global niche markets? How have you got to know your customers’ needs in offshore markets? Export growth is vital for New Zealand's economy. This category recognises organisations that have developed great new products and services that are focused on customers in export markets.

Most Inspiring Individual - Sponsored by 3M

This award is given to the most inspirational individual who has developed a world-leading company, product or service that deserves to be celebrated. They display passion and ambition and are industry leaders when it comes to innovation and doing things a bit differently. Their attitudes and efforts have been recognised by their team and our evaluators, making them eligible for this award. Previous winners of this award have pushed the limits of confidence and belief in what is possible and what problems of our time can be solved.

Young New Zealand Innovator - Sponsored by MOTAT

This award celebrates entrants that demonstrate potential as innovators and achievement at a young age, from 16 to 35 years. You may be a student with a great project to share, a young entrepreneur or global business owner with an ambition and drive for innovation. Share your story and connect with a supportive NZ innovation community. Innovators aged 16 or 18 are respectfully asked to have parental or guardian support and approval for entry. (Please talk to the NZ Innovation Council we would love to help).

People's Choice - Sponsored by RadioLIVE

Who will the people choose? This award recognises an innovation that stands out to, and is adored by, the NZ public. Run online / live in collaboration with our partner, the results give the people a voice in naming their favourite innovation of 2017. If you’re a finalist in any category of the awards, you’ll automatically qualify for the People’s Choice award, which opens for voting after the 5th September, 2017.

Bayer Supreme New Zealand Innovation - Sponsored by Bayer New Zealand

This is the most coveted innovation award representing the most innovative company in the country. The Bayer Supreme New Zealand Innovation Award has a rich alumni of companies that have gone on to achieve wonderful things on a local and international stage, including:
  • 2011 - Vend Ltd
  • 2012 - Revolution Fibres Ltd
  • 2013 - Pacific Edge Ltd
  • 2014 - Precision Seafood Harvesting
  • 2015 - Kode Biotech with Kode Technology Anti-Cancer Treatment
  • 2016 - ARANZ Medical - Silhouette & FastSCAN
The 2017 winner of the Bayer Supreme New Zealand Innovation Award will be selected from the winners of our twelve industry categories.

Still confused about which categories you should enter? We can help!

Call us on 0800 2 INNOVATE or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

© NZ Innovation Council 2017