R&D grants & innovation news: Callaghan Innovation’s best businesses you’ve never heard of

Article originally written by Simone Steele for Stuff in an interview with Callaghan Innovation interim CEO, Hemi Rolleston

OPINION: As Kiwis, we’re often not the best at blowing our own trumpets.

Real or imagined, the tall poppy syndrome is one that people are wary of and no more so than in the business world.

Entrepreneurs are wary of showcasing their success as nobody wants to be, in the words of one former deputy prime minister about a then-future prime minister, a rich prick.

Pushpay CEO Chris Heaslip and chairman Bruce Gordon

Pushpay CEO Chris Heaslip and chairman Bruce Gordon


At Callaghan Innovation we have no hesitation pushing our purpose of helping businesses succeed through technology and we’re enormously proud of the achievements of New Zealand businesses at home and abroad.

That got us thinking – we hear a lot about the shining lights of New Zealand technology but there are many who aren’t as well known in the public as they could be.

So, without further ado, and in no particular order, here are the best nine New Zealand companies you’ve never heard of.

Auror – How often have you heard people say that it’s not worth the time and effort of reporting a crime? With the vision of start-up tech company Auror, that effort can be largely taken out of the equation along with increasing the chance of catching offenders and preventing future crimes.

Auror’s software streamlines reporting to police, matches offenders with crimes, and even helps predict where they might strike next.

Pushpay – Pushpay has gone from whoa to go at lightspeed, growing its revenue at over 4500 per cent in the past year, making it the fastest growing company on the Deloitte Fast 50 list this year.

In three years, they have gone from two engineers to close to 90 and a total staff of 300. It’s the type of investment that is likely to pay dividends for the New Zealand economy.

ADInstruments – ADInstruments may be one of the companies that helps make it all happen for others. It aims to make tools that help advance science research and education.

Starting with one Macintosh computer-connected system for Otago University over 30 years ago, they’re now supplying to over 10,000 organisations around the world. Their tools range from software to help teach physiology, medicine and nursing, through to measuring devices capable of recording hundreds of thousands of samples.

Ossis, OssAbility and Enztec – It’s an unfortunate fact for many people that as they get older, they need a hip or a knee joint replaced. Until you require one, you’re unlikely to know the companies making the tools and implants to make that happen.

These three have connected in the past year in a Christchurch medical technology cluster. While they’re in similar markets, they aren’t direct competitors and working together means they can help each other with design issues and roadblocks.

Ossis designs and manufactures 3D printed titanium hip, knee and elbow joints, custom-fitted for an exact surgical fit. This year they produced their 100th custom-designed hip joint.

OssAbility also produces high-tech implants and a range of world-leading tools – for animals — meaning vets can perform surgery with better results. They’re at the absolute forefront of 3D printing in New Zealand.

Enztech make products for orthopaedic surgery, focusing on exceptional design and manufacturing ability.

Telogis – If those three are about getting your body running right, Telogis is about getting your fleet running right. Their technology helps getting the right number of vehicles on the road, going the right way at the right speed, and even making sure truck drivers wear their seat belts.

Pro-Form – If you’ve ever had cause to look in the back of a ute in the past 20 or so years, you might have seen a protective lining made by Waikato-based Pro-Form.

They’re exporting to 65 countries and what our team notices about Pro-Form is its design approach and business smarts. From designing the items that make it easy to transport things in the back of the ute, to making them so they can be packaged and transported efficiently.

Umajin – Umajin (like imagine but starting with “you”) are not just building apps, they’ve produced a platform that lets non-coders build apps.

Described by one of Callaghan Innovation’s people as “digital superstars”, Umajin’s plan is for businesses to be able to get apps ready to be used in days rather than months. The genius is in making app design visual rather than requiring everyone to be able to code.

Sirtrack – From its Hawke’s Bay base, Sirtrack supplies animal tracking devices around the world, for everything from giant wetas to elephants, and emperor penguins to turtles.

It was Sirtrack’s equipment that was used to see where the penguin dubbed Happy Feet went to when he was re-released in Antarctic waters in 2011 after washing up on a Kāpiti beach. The company’s trackers have been used on over 550 wildlife species.

Sentient – Sentient are another company flying under the radar because what they do is make it easier for other organisations to keep track of what they’ve got happening.

It produces cloud-based software that can let everyone in an organisation see progress across key initiatives.

Circuband – We might be pushing it here to say this is a company you’ve never heard of because it has some high-profile users of its fitness resistance bands, including the Defence Force, New Zealand Rugby and Cricket Australia.

Circuband equipment is designed to be used anywhere and by anyone and is exporting around the world.

Manuka Health New Zealand – Te Awamutu-based Manuka Health is taking a value-added approach to the already celebrated manuka honey.

It’s using R&D and high-tech industrial processes to see honey not just as the finished product but as the source for a range of health products and dietary supplements.

They’ve invested heavily in a new honey processing facility and laboratory and made good use of R&D grants.

If you’d like to streamline securing Callaghan Innovation grants, contact us at the resources guys.