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NZ’s first ever Manufacturing Accelerator opens for business

NZ’s first ever Manufacturing Accelerator opens for business

The doors are open! Lightning Lab Manufacturing kicked off in Lower Hutt this week, welcoming eight hardware startups into the three month programme. The manufacturing accelerator is the fifth Lightning Lab to run since its inception in 2013, and the first in NZ to centre around hardware, giving startups who are building or have built physical products the opportunity to rapidly accelerate their companies. The programme is run by Creative HQ with support from Callaghan Innovation, Grow Wellington and the Hutt City Council.

Lightning Lab Manufacturing Director, Shawn O’Keefe, says the interest in this inaugural manufacturing programme has been huge, with over 50 applications from across NZ and offshore. “We are opening a whole new door for the startup community and investors”, says O’Keefe. “We know that ‘hardware is hard’, so it’s even more critical that we help these early stage businesses get off the launch pad. These teams need to be design-led and customer-focused, aware of the latest trends in manufacturing technology and have a clear strategy for getting their products off the drawing board and into the marketplace.”

The eight startups that make up the inaugural manufacturing cohort:

ORGANIC DYNAMIC Surfboards and related products developed from organic materials

EBEE Eco-friendly bee hive frames

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DOGMATEK Audio effects units combining analogue and digital electronics

KINE6 Wireless, outdoor motion capture technology

LIQUID LIFE Dye dispersal unit for marine rescue

THE MISPRINT CO. Business paper waste repurposed into notebooks

PRECISION PLATFORMS Rifle stocks and bi-pods for long-range hunters and competition rifle shooters

BPOD Smart baby products that can adapt to the needs of parents and baby

As part of the programme, startups will each receive $15,000 seed funding, as well as intensive mentorship and business development throughout the 12-week programme in the Lower Hutt space. Running in parallel with the Manufacturing programme is Lightning Lab Digital in Christchurch, a first for the region. Teams are given access to a network of more than 100 mentors, interns and advisors from across New Zealand and around the globe, who share experiences, confront assumptions and test teams’ fortitude while sharing a powerful network of expertise, experience and connections.

Lower Hutt City Council is a key supporter of the programme, and is hosting the Lab in a former retail space within the CBD. Mayor Ray Wallace says that the teams represent a vital part of the region’s manufacturing history, and future: “Lower Hutt is home to many of the Wellington region’s high value manufacturers. We are excited to see these young businesses being given a headstart, and developing the next generation of products that can be exported around the world. Manufacturing companies employ designers, engineers, science and business graduates amongst many others, providing great career paths for our youth, and vitality for our communities.”

Government agency Callaghan Innovation is also supporting this project, as it aligns with its mission to help businesses of all sizes succeed through technology. “As the lead organisation supporting the commercialisation of science and technology-led innovation in New Zealand, we are pleased to be involved in this inaugural hardware accelerator,” says Jesse Keith, Callaghan Innovation’s National Technology Network Manager for Design and Manufacturing. “We support high-tech and design-led businesses across all sectors, through the expanded nationwide business incubator network as well as providing R&D services, advice and funding to the high value manufacturing sector. As well as our direct support for the team running the Lightning Lab, we are using our extensive national and international networks to help these ventures make the connections they need to succeed.”

Grow Wellington CEO, Gerard Quinn, sees the teams as a cross-section of the region’s dynamic and creative economy. “The products include film industry tech, cloud-enabled products, sporting goods and agri-tech, with environmental responsibility being a strong theme. It will be exciting to see the creative collisions that occur as these teams grow and connect with the wider manufacturing base across the region.”

The 3 month programme will finish with a Demo Day in late November, giving the teams a chance to pitch their companies to a packed room of investors. Previous Lightning Lab Demo Day events have raised more than $5M of investment to date.

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