By Vic Crone, Chief Executive, Callaghan Innovation
NZ is at a crossroads with innovation after COVID-19.
The current crisis has sparked plenty of innovative and disruptive thinking: Soul Machines’ artificial intelligence (AI) assistant, Bella, used its ‘digital brain’ to share COVID-19 health information and Plink Software overhauled its classroom programmes for at-home learning.
Businesses are eager to keep going on such innovations: The majority of the 474 respondents (98%) to our second ‘Pulse Check survey’ of our customers in May plan to spend on R&D within the next year. But many businesses are also feeling the pinch. Half (50%) of those surveyed delayed launching a product or service due to COVID-19 and 73% have accessed the Government wage subsidy. Business confidence will almost certainly take another hit when this subsidy stops on 1 September.
Globally, businesses pulled back on R&D following the GFC, to the detriment of economic recovery. NZ’s challenge – and opportunity – now is to learn from this and enable businesses to keep innovating and growing.
Here’s how Callaghan Innovation is helping businesses keep innovating through the crisis:
Financial support for R&D projects
At the end of June we launched our $150 million R&D Loan Scheme, with funding allocated in the Government’s 2020 ‘Rebuilding Together’ Budget. R&D-performing businesses with funding impacted by COVID-19 can apply for a loan of up to $400,000 – interest-free if repaid within the first year – so they can continue their high-value R&D activities. We’ve received high demand for the support with over 400 engaged in the process so far.
Under urgency, the Government has extended the Callaghan Innovation-supported R&D Tax Incentive – a 15% tax credit on money spent on eligible R&D activity in NZ – to more loss-making businesses.
We’re gearing up to fully launch our Tech Incubator programme, helping startups commercialise their hi-tech complex technologies. Deeptech businesses will help us build a more high-value economy through globally competitive hi-tech businesses. Our four incubators are in the process of setting up and we look to officially launch the programme in Q4 this year.
Essential innovation skills to focus on growth
Our experts have a diverse range of innovation skills that businesses can access to support R&D and commercialisation, such as through our Build for Speed programme, that supports software businesses to identify and eliminate common pain points, freeing them up to focus on value-add activities such as R&D.
Businesses looking to raise capital can learn the fundamentals through the online videos and workshops in our Capital Education programme.
Helping businesses connect the dots
Our networking platform, Scale-Up NZ, makes it faster and easier for ambitious, innovative businesses to find and connect with the people, capital and support they need to innovate and grow, here and offshore. To date, a total of more than $560 million has been invested in companies on the platform in their lifetime, and more than 180 profiles have the ‘coronavirus’ tag that shows they can provide support or have capability specific to COVID-19.
Regional Business Partner Network support
Callaghan Innovation and NZTE’s Regional Business Partner Network (RBP) can help businesses access support for a range of needs, including R&D projects.
We’re innovating alongside our businesses
We continually review our support and services as business needs change over time. Innovation is a choice, our mission is to ensure businesses are equipped to choose to innovate.