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  • We live in a fast-changing world. We often hear that innovation is what’s needed to address the global challenges and local issues that we’re facing, to seize new and unexpected opportunities as they arise and to make our world a better place. A key role of schools is to prepare students for this changing world. Skills such as creativity and the ability to be innovative are often quoted as important for 21st century school leavers. These skills, often difficult to teach explicitly and to assess, are important to recognise and foster in our young people.

    We have a collection of resources on Innovation for teachers to help support young people in developing an ability to recognise how innovation happens, to understand the value it can bring and, in doing so, to develop skills, attitudes and values that better prepare them for contributing to our fast-changing world.

    Why is innovation important?

    Innovation is based on contemporary stories of New Zealand innovators and innovations. All our of our innovation content illustrate the value in having or developing a deep knowledge base in science or technology or both – but innovation is much more than just science or technology.

    Important from a teacher’s point of view is that the telling of an innovation story is inspiring! Innovation is all about new ideas, new ways of thinking, working with others and trying to make our world a better place. It’s all about seeing opportunities, solving problems, being creative, thinking outside the square, not giving up, being resourceful. These are skills, attitudes and behaviours needed for living and working in our fast-changing world. They can be explored and demonstrated through telling the stories of New Zealand innovators and their innovations.

    We also see a lot of potential in these innovation stories being used to illustrate the relevance of what students are learning at school (as we know this can be tricky!). Their classroom learning can be made meaningful by connecting it to cutting-edge careers and businesses in New Zealand.

    Our innovation resources show variety in the process of innovation and the people involved. This will be helpful in illustrating to students how they, too, might spot an opportunity, look at a problem differently, respond creatively to a challenge, work with others, come up with a solution and so on.

    Stories of innovation

    The innovation stories below introduce a concise collection of resources for each one based on contemporary New Zealand innovations. Featuring inspiring interviews with the innovators and articles explaining the science and technology, these can be used as stand-alone resources or to form part of a bigger picture of innovation.

    Aeronavics – innovative robotic aerial solutions. see how, in solving a challenge for their 3D environments and ‘walk through’ photography business, Linda Bulk and Rob Brouwer adapted and developed a product that has become a global business. Aeronavics produces a variety of robotic aerial vehicles for a variety of applications.

    The FOODBOWL – Learn about the unique challenges for New Zealand food companies developing products for export. Discover how The FOODBOWL, as part of a wider innovation network in New Zealand, can support and enable companies to develop new products and create new niche market opportunities.

    Kindling Cracker – introduces a new safe way to chop kindling and its teenager inventor, Ayla Hutchinson. The Kindling Craker is a device for safely chopping kindling, and is now selling across the world. Ayla developed the first prototypes as part of a Science Fair project.

    Revolution Fibres – discover how Iain Hosie and Simon Feasey found a gap in the market for the commercial production of electropsun nanofibres. We learn about Revolution Fibres, their high-tech manufacturing business, and find out why scale and size are important concepts for understanding the nanoworld. Note in 2021, Revolution Fibres rebranded to NanoLayr.

    YikeBike – find out about Grant Ryan’s radical redesign of the traditional bicycle, the YikeBike. We see how important composite materials have been in making it light, strong and compact. We look at its unique safety features and see why having an electric motor makes it ideal for commuters in an urban environment.

    Zealong – learn how Vincent Chen, the co-founder of Zealong, began the lengthy development process of growing tea plants, establishing a tea plantation and processing oolong tea in New Zealand. We look at the unique qualities of Zealong tea that differentiate it from other teas and find out how these contribute to its success in international markets.

    The ZESPRI biospife – learn about a compostable bioplastic material that incorporates kiwifruit residues and the importance of collaboration in the development of the biospife. Its success represents a significant step in bioplastic development. We see how the knowledge gained may be applied to other products and waste streams, addressing increasing demand for sustainable materials.

    Innovation in your classroom

    We see real value in our innovation resources being used in a range of learning areas, from science to technology to social science, and over a range of levels, from primary to NCEA. At a broader level, they can be used to support and promote the vision, values and key competencies defined in the New Zealand Curriculum. Our innovation resources have multiple entry points, allowing you to tailor these resources to your needs, whether it’s the innovation, the science or technology, the people, the behaviours, attitudes or skills, the business or the careers that are your focus. Teachers now have a resource for developing innovation literacy in their students.

    Use these three activities to start innovative thinking in the classroom:

    About innovation is a short video that can provide an introductory provocation or thought piece during a unit of learning.

    In Innovation – an integrated approach to science and technology be inspired by this year 3 case study developed with St Francis Xavier Catholic Schools.

    Contact us

    We’d love to hear from you if you’re using or interested in using our innovation resources in your classroom. We’re always keen to work with teachers to improve, further develop and target our resources. Please contact us via email:

    Related content

    The annual KiwiNet Research Commercialisation Awards recognise the commercial success of scientific and technological ideas in New Zealand. Check out the winners from 2013 to 2018.

    Read about some of the amazing innovators in the rural sector. The stories range from robots to medical-grade mānuka honey.

    Useful links

    Innovation models and processes
    Explore our Pinterest board to find a collection of different innovation models and process.

    Overcoming psychological barriers to innovative products
    This article from The Conversation explains how – and why – innovative products fail. Sometimes it is not due to design or engineering, but that people get anxious when products are too radically atypical.

    Innovation in New Zealand
    Visit the Callaghan Innovation website to learn more about how they support innovation and commercialisation in New Zealand.

      Published 10 May 2013, Updated 25 May 2022 Referencing Hub articles
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