Innovating for the Environment

Partner organisations represented at the launch of 9Wire at Zealandia in Wellington on May 26 2019.     From left to right: Brett Butland from Auckland Council, Livia Esterhazy from WWF, Louise Aitken from Ākina, Vicky Robertson from MfE, Richard Quin from Callaghan, Cathy Robinson from MPI and Lou Sanson from DoC.

Partner organisations represented at the launch of 9Wire at Zealandia in Wellington on May 26 2019.
From left to right: Brett Butland from Auckland Council, Livia Esterhazy from WWF, Louise Aitken from Ākina, Vicky Robertson from MfE, Richard Quin from Callaghan, Cathy Robinson from MPI and Lou Sanson from DoC.

Kareena Harris is part of the Ākina team working on 9Wire, the environmental innovation programme. Here she reflects on why the programme exists, and how to get involved. 9Wire applications close on Monday 8 July 2019.

If you’ve been paying any attention over the last few years, you’ll know Mother Nature is not a happy camper. We are seeing the increasingly devastating effects of climate change and biodiversity loss on the environment, as reported in the Ministry for the Environment’s report Environment Aotearoa 2019. It will take a lot more than reducing our individual plastic use to reverse the massive damage we have done to our natural world…

Some of our environmental challenges include:

  • More species are at risk of extinction than ever before

  • At current rates, it’s estimated that there will be more plastic than fish in the sea by 2050 

  • Soil quality is degrading and we could run out of arable land

  • Bees, essential for the pollination of crops, are declining in record numbers

  • New Zealand’s waterways are increasingly polluted with many not fit for swimming

  • We are using more freshwater than we have access to.

You get the idea.

But, alongside all of this bad news entrepreneurs and organisations are working to relieve or fix some of these environmental challenges. It’s not easy – many initiatives hit barriers and roadblocks to innovation. They might struggle to unlock funding, to find expertise that allows them to properly research or test a concept, or they might be unable to make government or industry connections that could open up opportunities for them to scale. This means they aren’t getting to the stage where they can make the impact they want to.

9Wire is a brand new innovation programme focusing on environmental impact – because it’s pretty clear that our old-fashioned kiwi ‘number 8 wire’ mentality just won’t do the job anymore. If you or your organisation has a new innovation that will benefit the environment, we want you to apply!

Ākina is one of seven innovative organisations that have collaborated to build this programme. We’re proud to have helped develop the programme, as well as to have developed the Social Lean Canvas into a helpful new kind of application form.

Read about the programme below, and for more information visit the 9Wire website. 

What are the problems?  

The programme partners and the 9Wire team have been hearing from many innovators, all with the same sorts of problems are holding them back or stopping them in their tracks. Here are some of the issues innovators are encountering: 

  • There are no programmes that are designed to support the specific innovation or area of impact, or they’re too early-stage, or too late-stage, or not the right legal structure for the programme or support.

  • They still have to try and fit into existing types of programmes and funding that aren’t right for me, but there’s no other options.

  • Any funding (especially grants) doesn’t come with any additional capability support or assistance to deliver the outcomes well, and there’s a lot of admin attached.

  • Their legal structure limits their ability to get the right funding and support.

  • They could go through 2-3 accelerators or incubators but it’s hard to break into the next level.

  • They will apply for many different funds, programmes and awards and likely receive nothing back, wasting precious time and resources.

  • They could not be not very good at writing applications, so will lose to larger experienced organisations who can pay for professional writers.

A result of this is that many ideas will fail or close down before they reach their potential for impact.

What’s the solution?

We know that every team’s journey through growing their own business and developing innovations is unique. So the question was, why are all of these programmes only designed for a tiny pool of potential applicants? 

Enter 9Wire: A brand new environmental innovation programme designed to help you navigate YOUR environmental innovation journey.

9Wire is flipping the model of how support is given to ventures/organisations/individuals who are working towards positively impacting the environment in any way. That’s what makes us different. 9Wire works to bring the support to you, by tapping into a new collaboration of innovation partners to navigate the support pathways on offer that are right for you. 9Wire will break down the barriers to impact.

How do I apply? 

9Wire is designed to give you value from the get go, with a specially designed application form that acts like a workshop for you to better understand and articulate you innovation’s business model (if applicable) and impact model. Just filling in the application form will make you visible to our innovation partners. Through the online app, we can provide feedback on your application and ask questions. This will allow you to refine your work before you submit and gives everyone their best chance at an application that’s actually representative of your work.

How are ideas selected for the programme, and what support do they get?

During the assessment process we will assess everyone individually, and choose around 10 innovations that will have the most impact within the next five years. These 10 will get intensive, wrap- around support for the duration of the programme. 

The rest of the innovations that are accepted into the programme, will be put into a ‘pool’. This pool is searchable by the programme partners and potential major support providers. It allows us to begin to group opportunities together for cohort programmes, connections, and see patterns that could unlock additional funding. The innovations in the pool will receive support in a more ad hoc fashion, as opportunities specific to needs arise during the duration of the programme.

Our aim is that environmental innovations that get into 9Wire will receive some form of bespoke, appropriate support to get to the next stage in their journey.

Support may come in the form of:

  • Streamlining access to funding opportunities

  • Skill building for teams and individuals

  • Professional support such as legal, financial or marketing needs

  • Technical support to solve problems

  • Impact tracking and development

  • Connections and introductions

  • Webinars, articles and other resources

If you’re working towards positively impacting the environment in an innovative way. You can apply! It’s that simple. Find out more at and hit the apply button to get your application underway!

Applications close on Monday 8 July 2019.


9Wire Programme Partners