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We know innovation will play an important part in the economic recovery of New Zealand, but what else do we need? 

In this week’s Export Recovery Series Interview, Andy Mitchell (Katabolt Growth Strategist) spoke with David Downs, head of the AoG AgriTech task force, about how we can navigate New Zealand into a position of relative strength, if not a world-leader in innovation.

New Zealand has a number of unique advantages and strengths such as our kiwi ingenuity, returning highly skilled workers, and ease of doing business. David says we have some amazing ingredients for success. 

David shares his experiences setting up SOS Cafe during lockdown, an innovative initiative to enable local communities to support local businesses, and the impact of covid-19 on the local economy and local consumer behaviour.

Other themes addressed in the interview include:

  • AgriTech and the opportunity for productive growth and exporting technology IP
  • The importance of navigating uncertainty by challenging orthodoxy and embracing diversity
  • Balancing humility and ‘haka’ in the Kiwi export community to create a bigger, better, stronger country

Watch the interview, or read our key outtakes from the interview below, to find out how Kiwi exporters can leverage New Zealand’s key ingredients to navigate into a position of relative strength.

David Downs is a Business Leader, Senior Government Official, Board Director, Speaker and Published Author of several books on Innovation in New Zealand including “No 8. Rewired” and follow up title “No 8. Recharged” which was coauthored with Dr Michelle Dickinson of Nanogirl Lab. 

Our key outtakes:

The impact of COVID-19 on the local economy and local communities behaviour

  • There’s a strong opinion that local businesses and small businesses are important economically but also in terms of social fabric, in a community sense.
  • There is a collision of support local and the internet economy but there is a desire in consumers to keep local businesses going, and pay a premium for it.
  • We’ve got to find that fine line of where we are the best at what we can be, and where we can collaborate or buy internationally.
  • The global impact of the buy local trend is that Kiwi exporters need to market their goods with multi-dimensional arguments (points of value) e.g. local and sustainable, to avoid global consumers saying, “It’s from New Zealand, it’s too far away.” 
  • If government procurement policy can encourage local innovation, and stimulate business growth within the rules and guidelines of the WTO, then it’s a really big lever to pull.

AgriTech and the opportunity for productive growth and exporting technology IP

  • Economic recovery is important but we’ve got to look at opportunity and growth as well.
  • AgriTech is an opportunity  for NZ to really excel because it marries our traditional strength of land with the fast-growing technology sector.
  • If we can accelerate the Agritech sector then we have an opportunity to create efficient, productive growth using great technology. Additionally that is valuable IP that we can then sell internationally.

New Zealand’s unique advantages and ingredients for successful innovation on the world stage

  • Being in a jurisdiction that is trustworthy, transparent and an easy place to do business is a huge advantage.
  • The level of highly skilled talent available – we have smart, canny, good people who are multi-skilled and can turn the hands to everything or anything.
  • Improvement and growth of the investment landscape, the angel investor community has blossomed. While there aren’t as many domestic VCs but they’re definitely money that’s willing to invest into New Zealand.
  • Significant government support, and government support network i.e. MBIE, Callaghan Innovation and IRD.
  • Traditional kiwi ingenuity.
  • If we do it right, if we collaborate and work it out, there’s a huge opportunity for our Kiwi exporters to really capitalise on some of our strengths and be a world leader in innovation.

The importance of navigating uncertainty by challenging orthodoxy and embracing diversity

  • One of the challenges at the board and leadership level is that you’ve always got to have one eye on what’s happening now, and one eye on the horizon, 2-3 years time. The tactical decisions being made now will determine the success of our businesses and our country in the medium to long term period. 
  • The new normal for a leader or an entrepreneur is being able to make decisions in the face of uncertainty and imperfect information.
  • Right now is not the time for groupthink – We need to challenge orthodoxy and embrace diversity at the board level by finding entrepreneurs and younger, more inexperienced people with different backgrounds who will ask great questions.
  • It takes all sorts for success – we need the entrepreneurs, we need the people who are amazing at executing, we need people who are really clear communicators.

Balancing humility and ‘haka’ in the Kiwi export community to create a bigger, better, stronger country

  • Kiwi exporters need to really dig deep into ourselves to do what it takes to be able to change and adapt our businesses for the markets which are changing and adapting just ever so slightly ahead of us.
  • We’ve got these patterns and models in what we do, now what we need is more people with that crazy, audacious goal of a billion dollar business. 
  • We need more haka – When we’re out on the rugby field, we’re ruthless and proud and have incredibly high ambition. That’s what we need in our businesses. We can still be wonderful and polite and humble and ‘sweep the shed’ – they’re not mutually exclusive. 
  • If we can balance humility and ‘haka’ at the same time, and we can do that in numbers, we can become a bigger, better, stronger country off the back of this crisis.

The Katabolt Export Recovery Series has been running since March as a resource designed by exporters, for exporters, to help the New Zealand export community better understand the post-lockdown world that we now find ourselves in.

All the Export Recovery Series Webinars and Interviews are available to watch here, alongside contact details of all our panelists, and the key outtakes and resources from each.

The Export Recovery Panel team would like to acknowledge the invaluable contributions of our friends at Kea New Zealand and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, for helping to make these webinars possible. Thank you.

KEA NZ and Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Trade Logos

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