20 Oct 2016

Māori innovation hub targets modern tech, education

9:25 am on 20 October 2016

Science organisation Callaghan Innovation is targeting Māori businesses at its research premises in Petone.

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Photo: 123rf

The government-funded agency has been working closely with Māori businesses and today is launching an innovation hub focused on making its services more accessible to Māori.

Callaghan Innovation interim chief executive Hemi Rolleston said the hub was a way to engage more with Māori businesses.

"We're trying to encourage more Māori in much the same way as we're trying to encourage all of New Zealand to do more R and D.

"We're just trying to be innovative. How might we get them here because they're generally not just going to jump on a plane and come here. But if we create an environment that entices them we're really confident in the capability. And the Māori model is very relationship driven. If we get them to build relationships then anything is possible."

Mr Rolleston said the organisation had done a lot of work with food businesses where Māori had a major stake. But he said they wanted to expand those relationships into other industries like digital technology.

"Māori youth are wanting to be more ambitious in their career choices and we're trying to steer them towards the STEM [science, technology, engineering and mathematics] subjects.

"We're partnering with iwi to support initiatives to develop programs to get them connected to robotics, digital, coding type of world. Iwi like Ngāi Tāhu are already doing that."

Callaghan Innovation has collaborated with iwi by organising trips to Silicon Valley for groups of young people. Miriana Stephens is a director on the board of Wakatu Incorporation, an iwi-owned food company based at the top of the South Island.

She accompanied one of the school groups to the United States.

"The use of technology was massive," she said.

"We were fortunate enough to go to companies like Uber and Facebook. We were looking at what's the right mindset one needs to have. When you work in Māori trusts and corporations and iwi, how do we position ourselves to be receptive to that next generation and their ideas and their way of thinking."

Ms Stephens said they had already benefited from the work done with Callaghan Innovation.

"We developed up our innovation strategy, which is what are our key priorities we want to work on and then how do we utilise Callaghan services moving forward. So we've got some quite big projects, we were already liaising with them on the science, really deep science to help us get some value-added products that we've got in the pipeline."

Mr Rolleston said Callaghan Innovation were working with schools to develop different career paths for Māori.

"We've worked directly with schools, so even some of the schools are creating some initiatives that are a little bit more disruptive than the normal plain school curriculum."

Mr Rolleston said the innovation hub would not cost the organisation any extra money to develop.

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