Sow­ing the seeds

Idealog - - FOOD FIGHT -

There are plenty of op­por­tu­ni­ties in the Bay for busi­nesses that have al­ready started. But ef­forts are also be­ing made to en­sure more young­sters gain the con­fi­dence to start them.

One of the big­gest cel­e­bra­tions of cre­ativ­ity and in­no­va­tive think­ing in the Bay of Plenty re­gion is the Young In­no­va­tor Awards (YiA), a lo­cal awards pro­gramme for stu­dents in the Tau­ranga re­gion.

The awards are an ini­tia­tive of In­step, the ed­u­ca­tional arm of eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment agency Pri­or­ity One in part­ner­ship with lo­cal com­pa­nies Woods and Blue­lab.

Ap­pli­cants are tasked with com­ing up with an in­no­va­tive prod­uct or ser­vice that would make the world a bet­ter place, and can win cash prizes and in­tern­ships with lead­ing Bay of Plenty busi­nesses.

Reuben Woods and YiA project man­ager Stacey Jones say the awards are not fo­cused on the prod­ucts and ser­vices cre­ated. In­stead, it’s about teach­ing kids the process of in­no­va­tion.

“Some of these kids’ in­no­va­tions could po­ten­tially turn into some­thing big­ger, but that is not our fo­cus,” Jones says. “We want to give the kids the con­fi­dence to ex­per­i­ment with their ideas.”

As well as this, Jones says it’s teach­ing kids that they don’t have to nec­es­sar­ily be the best in the class in a par­tic­u­lar sub­ject, they can still be gifted by pur­su­ing and de­vel­op­ing an idea.

“We’re not sci­ence or busi­ness fo­cused, it’s all about giv­ing ev­ery stu­dent a plat­form to learn about in­no­va­tion,” Jones says.

Win­ners of YiA go on to spend a week work­ing at dif­fer­ent types of busi­nesses on their idea, in­clud­ing Blue­lab, Lo­cus Re­search, Cu­cum­ber and Woods. YiA also re­cently es­tab­lished a new In­ter­me­di­ate cat­e­gory with House of Sci­ence, another show of col­lab­o­ra­tion in the re­gion.

Pre­vi­ous alumni of YiA in­clude lo­cal fur­ni­ture de­sign­ers Ge­orge & Willy, or Ge­orge Wilkins and Wil­liam McCal­lum, who won the Emerg­ing Ex­porter of the Year Awards at the 2017 Bay of Plenty Ex­portNZ Awards.

Last year’s Se­nior Award win­ner, Ly­dia Gilmour from Tau­ranga Girls' Col­lege, cre­ated a mini-glad wrap dis­penser de­signed specif­i­cally for first aid kits called Swift Wrap. The process she went through at YiA in­spired her to change her de­gree fo­cus from Ma­te­ri­als and Process Engi­neer­ing to Me­chan­i­cal Engi­neer­ing at Waikato Univer­sity this year.

Jones says one of the most sig­nif­i­cant out­comes of YiA is it in­spires kids about what to do in the fu­ture, and can even end up chang­ing their life.

“One of the things we’re proud of is it’s not al­ways the smartest or the most cre­ative kids that suc­ceed. It doesn’t mat­ter if their idea is valid or not, or if they make a mil­lion dol­lars off it. We’re just proud to im­pact on their lives and set them on the jour­ney through a cre­ative process.”

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