Previous winners


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Emily Blythe

A good idea to solve a global, multi-billion dollar problem: New Zealand-based Pyper Vision is working to make fog delays a thing of the past, and take air transport into a more resilient and planet friendly future.
Founded by entrepreneur, educator and visionary Emily Blythe, Pyper Vision is made up of an extraordinary team of aviators and innovators who are developing an intelligent dispersal system that brings fog to ground, clearing the skies for take-off and landing. Building on five years of research and development, Pyper's technology is a game changer for travellers, business and the aviation industry. Currently working with aviation and local partners, the goal is to take the system to airports in Aotearoa New Zealand and across the globe. As Pyper Vision's founder and CEO, Blythe lives a deep commitment to nurturing future talent for the aerospace industry, and is a generous mentor, leader and activator. From her home in Ōtautahi Christchurch, she is making an impact across Aotearoa, praised by Megan Wood, Minister for Research, Science and Innovation, for her “classic innovation and entrepreneurship.” 

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Robbie van Dam

In 2005, more than a decade before New Zealand set its sights on being predator-free, Robbie van Dam - co-founder and Innovation Director of Goodnature - sought to disrupt traditional pest control. With the help of an innovation grant from DOC, Robbie designed the world's first commercially- available automatic trap that is toxin-free, humane, effective, easy and safe for everyone on the planet. Today there are 600,000 Goodnature traps killing multiple pest species in over 25 countries around the world. With 4,000 endangered species in New Zealand alone, Robbie and Goodnature are committed to combining smart technology, exploring environmentally-responsible materials, and empowering people to take pest control into their own hands. Robbie’s vision is to keep innovating, with the tenacity and curiosity of a kea, to rewild the world so that our precious nature has a fighting chance of flourishing again.

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Vaughan Fergusson

Vaughan Fergusson is the founder of Vend, a New Zealand high-growth tech success story that sold for $500m in 2021. Today, he’s channelling his energy into The Pam Fergusson Charitable Trust – a charity he and his partner Zoe Trimbrell founded in 2014 to create opportunity through education, innovation & technology. Through the Trust, Fergusson is running initiatives like OMGTech!, Mana Tangata, and The Institute of Awesome to help teach innovation and technology to kids of all ages and backgrounds. Now a regular on the speaker- circuit, Fergusson is an advocate for challenging the status-quo, encouraging Kiwi across the motu to think differently and trust their inner weirdo.



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

“This award celebrates the New Zealanders who disrupt the status quo, whose inventions and ambitions are building towards a better tomorrow. As Aotearoa’s largest digital services and telecommunications company innovation is at the heart of everything we do, so we’re proud to be supporting the kaupapa behind the 2023 Spark New Zealand Innovator of the Year Award.”
Jolie Hodson
Spark New Zealand CEO