Previous winners


Angus Brown (Auckland)


Angus Brown is the co-founder of Ārepa, a brain food technology company that exists to make brains work better and delay the onset of neurological decline through science backed, accessible brain food. For every year neurological decline can be delayed, the world can save $500bn of economic burden. Angus started Ārepa after losing loved ones to neurological concerns with the intention of using science to underpin all its product development. This led to eight long years of research, spanning multiple countries, stakeholders and scientists. With three clinical trials completed and a growing portfolio, Angus has brought Ārepa to life, NZ's leading brain health and performance beverage. Pursuing the idea of a natural product to support brain function, Angus led the product’s development and successful commercial manufacture; Ārepa is gaining international exports and attention winning Asia Pacific Food Start Up of the Year (NutraIngredients) and the Fieldays Innovation Award. Ārepa has helped over a million customers think more clearly and has a goal to grow a billion dollar food export business out of NZ that positively impacts brain health worldwide.

Brianne West (Canterbury)


Brianne West is a New Zealand entrepreneur and founder of Ethique, the world's first regenerative beauty and personal care brand. With a background in biochemistry, she's shown that beauty doesn't have to be wasteful, and is passionate about protecting and restoring our environment. Ethique’s first solid bar products were formulated in Brianne’s kitchen and are now sold in 4,000 stores across more than 20 countries. In the past year she has launched a series of concentrates, recognising that most cleaning and haircare products are made up mainly of water (60-95%), and that transporting these products around the world is contributing seriously to greenhouse gas emissions. A generous mentor and coach, she shares the ethos that business should benefit everyone involved in the process - not just shareholders. She was named a ‘Top 100 Global Thinker’ by Foreign Policy magazine in 2016, the 2019 NZ EY 'Young Entrepreneur of the Year' and One Young World's Entrepreneur of the Year in 2020.

Cameron Smith (Auckland)


Cameron Smith is the Founder and CEO of Take2, a programme giving people in prison a second chance. The programme provides 12 months of intensive web development training and access to potential internships at leading tech companies. Working with a number of philanthropic organisations and leading tech firms, Cameron left his full-time job in investment and self-funded the first 12-months of the journey. During this time, he successfully raised over $1.5 million in funding for the programme. Take2 aims to reduce reoffending rates, secure participants professional employment once released from prison, and improve the representation of Māori and Pasifika in the tech ecosystem. Cameron has fiercely chased his vision, persuading prison operators and the Department of Corrections to approve the pilot. The programme has opened a second class due to popularity and Take2 has the highest engagement rate of all programmes operating at the prison.

Grace Glass (Christchurch)


At 22, Grace Glass left her career as an Emergency Department Nurse to pursue her passion for wellness in an industry that had barely changed for 70 years - the paint industry. While many people were choosing to reduce their exposure to chemicals and focus on minimising their environmental impact, she learnt that the paint industry still favoured the use of petrochemicals and cheap synthetics - putting pressure on our world's resources. In 2015 she co-founded the Natural Paint Co (NPC) with James Mount, and pioneered New Zealand made, natural paints and oils that are completely free of harmful chemicals. Grace has ensured sustainability is at the forefront of every aspect of NPC, from the ingredients used, right through to running a carbon neutral business and reusing, recycling or composting leftover paint. NPC sells its products from a 100% ecommerce platform - an Australasian first. Six years into their business, NPC has just closed a successful investment round, welcoming 184 investors from around the world.

Inu Akerei Maresala-Thomson (Waikato)


Inu Akerei Maresala-Thomson (Lufilufi, Upolu, Samoa / Ōtara, South Auckland) is a social architect and award-winning leader who proudly hails from Ōtara, “the innovation capital of the world”. He is the co-founder of community app, MYRIVR, New Zealand’s biggest directory of health and social services. Rei’s goal is that MYRIVR becomes the largest enabler of community services globally. A former Police Senior Sergeant, Rei is a strong local presence and a caring leader who understands the complexities of life facing many in his community. As a former youth gang member and child sex abuse survivor, Rei is a passionate advocate for trauma prevention. During his time with the Police he met many families who said they were unaware of local support services in their area, which is how MYRIVR came to be. The app makes it easy to connect to 8,000 service providers and 30,000 professionals nationwide. MYRIVR recently won the 2020 Pacific Business Trust Innovation award.

Kevin Halsall (Otaki)

Kevin Halsall

Kevin Halsall’s love for the outdoors led to the development of a revolutionary new mobility vehicle. The experienced engineer/designer wanted to find a way to share a mutual passion for archery with his friend Marcus, a wheelchair user in mind. Kevin developed a prototype able to go off-road that allows its users freedom and independence. Able to be operated in narrow spaces and on uneven terrain it is changing the thinking on mobility by movement thru balance- ushering in an entirely new era and offering a solution to many with mobility issues. The Omeo has evolved since those early day and has developed to be intuitively driven, hands-free, using the body’s weight and movement to steer and accelerate. It is already changing lives of many globally, and with users videoing their experiences and sharing stories of beach outings and trail walks with friends and family for the first time since being in a chair , has created a world-wide community. This strong product feedback helped OMEO receive a Regional Development Loan in 2019 and this made it possible to create a dedicated assembly space in Ōtaki. With increasing international demand, Omeo Technology now plans to manage assembly and distribution in North America, UK and Europe, expanding the brand and bringing a freeing new lifestyle to people around the world.

Mark Sagar PhD FRSNZ (Auckland)


Double Academy Award winner Dr Mark Sagar is a thinker of extraordinary vision, imagining our future integrated with artificial intelligence (AI). The co-founder and CEO of Soul Machines, Mark and his team are pioneering new technology to create virtual humans with virtual brains. Mark has a PhD in Engineering from the University of Auckland and was a postdoctoral fellow at MIT. For his work in visual effects he was awarded two Scientific and Engineering Academy Awards for his innovations in animation which have become industry standard in feature films such as Avatar.

The pandemic has seen a rise in the need of digital technologies to disseminate information quickly and globally. Soul Machines has been leading the way, with applications in education, entertainment, commerce and health, for example developing Florence, a digital health worker for the WHO to help combat smoking and Covid-19 misinformation. Mark’s dedication to science and humanity is achieving significant impact worldwide and he and co-founder Greg Cross have grown Soul Machines to a 220-strong global team, with R&D based in Auckland. Mark was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of NZ in 2019 for his world-leading research. 

Rereata Mākiha (Northland)


Rereata Mākiha (Ngapuhi/Te Arawa/Rangitane) has dedicated his life to Te Ao Māori, he is an innovator who finds new ways to pass on knowledge. A broadcaster and reporter from the early 1970s, he was instrumental in the revitalisation of te reo Māori and is a specialist in ancestral knowledge. A promoter of Mahi tiaki Taiao - environmental work - he has led in the revival of whare wananga teachings and traditional practices related to the environment. Recently Rereata has been active in building up knowledge of and use of the Maramataka - the Maori Lunar Calendar - working alongside others to teach its value in communities across Aotearoa.

Saia Latu (Auckland)


Saia Latu (Sierra, Alpha, India, Alpha) is the founder and CEO of TROW Group, the leading deconstruction company in New Zealand. Deconstruction is the salvation and repurposing of construction materials that would otherwise end up in landfill. Construction and demolition waste amount for at least 50% of Auckland’s landfill. TROW finds innovative ways to repurpose hundreds of tonnes of materials to help build schools, social housing, community centres and churches across New Zealand and the Pacific. Saia’s personal philosophy is to do good for others, “Don’t be a business person, be a good person with a business”. Saia’s success has been hard won, he left school at 14 and has turned his hand to many roles, frequently working 100 hour weeks to make ends meet. hanks to Saia’s values, vision and commitment TROW’s work supports both people and the planet. In 2020 he was named Pacific Business Entrepreneur of the Year at the Pacific Business Trust awards.

Sarah Brown (Christchurch)


Sarah Brown (Ngāpuhi/Te Rarawa) co-founded the global movement, She is Not Your Rehab, to eliminate family harm by working with empathy with those who perpetrate violence.

Sarah is an anti-violence ambassador for the Ministry of Social Development’s ‘It’s not Ok’ campaign, Aviva Family Violence services in Christchurch and for a domestic violence research department in Griffith University in Australia. She co-authored the #1 best-selling book, purchasing over 9,000 copies to donate to every person incarcerated in NZ and is launching an accompanying book club program in collaboration with Corrections.

Managing the movement’s social media channels, with a following of over 280,000 people and a goal to bring innovation in creating meaningful content and viral digital campaigns that engage new discussion around family harm. Sarah works alongside her husband to utilise their barbershop to hold free group therapy for men and co-facilitates family harm prevention events and wānanga around the country.



To be eligible for this award, the nominee must have conceptualised and developed an innovation involving a product, service, technology, idea/theory or process across any industry sector including (but not limited to) health, science, technology, robotics, business, education, environmental, sustainability, agriculture, disadvantaged communities, and non-profits.

Nominators should consider talking about the following areas in their nomination:

  • INNOVATION: Describe the innovation of your nominee and the thoughtful, creative, and innovative approach it takes to resolve a challenge.
  • NEED: What problem does the innovation solve? And how is it unique to the market?
  • COMMITMENT: Describe the commitment of time, risks, and challenges overcome to develop the innovation to this point (this may still be ongoing).
  • PROVEN IMPACT: How has the innovation clearly demonstrated a positive impact on the targeted community (particularly over the last 12-months)? How has this been measured?
  • POTENTIAL: Describe the opportunity the innovation has to generate economic, social, and/or environmental benefits for a local industry sector, the nation, and or globally.
  • LONG-TERM IMPACT: How is the nominee planning to enhance, grow, and/or adapt the innovation in the future to best meet the changing needs of the targeted population? How would winning this award impact this person and the work that they are doing?

Conditions of Entry

“As a company built by innovators we know what Kiwis are capable of so we’re proud to be backing the New Zealand Innovator of the Year Award. The Award recognises inspiring Kiwis whose game-changing discoveries, research or inventions are driving our country forward.”
Anders Skoe
CEO, Trade Me