If creativity is a good idea then innovation is putting that good idea to use. Within the business world this will generally relate to renewing, changing or creating more effective processes, products or ways of doing things. To grow our economy and increase our productivity requires innovation and the identification of markets where our comparative lack of size is a competitive advantage. Many innovative New Zealand businesses have shown that isolation and scale need not be barriers to success. What is required is a social and commercial environment that encourages innovation and values excellence in research and development.

To help acknowledge the role that innovation should play in our regional economy and to highlight the many Northland businesses already doing great things with great ideas, this year in the Westpac Northland Business Excellence Awards we are including a separate category specifically for innovation sponsored by Northland Inc. This is because innovation should be front of mind and part of the standard behaviour of all businesses. This category will be run in tandem with the traditional entry process with a special evening to announce the finalists and then the overall winner of this category being announced at Awards Gala Evening in October. The stories these businesses can tell can inspire others to develop their good ideas, meet unmet needs and change the perception that many outside our region have of us.

Because this category is focussed on the innovation aspect of business behaviour rather than overall business excellence the entry process is a little less time consuming. With entries still open until the 14th of August there is still plenty of time for entries to be completed and received. Every day in Northland there are people using really good ideas to transform what businesses do and how they do it. It is important because putting a good idea to use can grow businesses, increase household incomes and create employment.

We want to celebrate Northland enterprises that are changing what products and services they deliver, how it is delivered and to whom. To do this we are seeking community support to identify those businesses in Northland who are doing things a little bit differently. If you know of a business that have a great idea that is adding value to primary produce, doing business not in the usual way or introducing a unique product or service to the market, we would like you to contact use over the next month and let us know who they are.

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