Wool Impact has recently implemented an innovative attempt to revitalise New Zealand's strong wool industry, creating a virtual innovation hub, overseen by a 'navigator', which aims to connect creative minds with the necessary resources to bring their wool ideas to fruition.
Andy Caughey, the CEO of Wool Impact joins REX host Dom George to discuss the new approach.
"We've got a lot of knowledge and expertise within New Zealand, but there's not an obvious pathway as to how you can get access to these people with technical knowledge or manufacturing knowledge," Caughey explains.
The 'navigator', filled by Anna Crosby, is designed to offer a clear route to funding, manufacturing capabilities, and to streamline the journey from concept to investable proposition. This is particularly important given the past frustrations encountered by individuals and businesses in the industry. As Caughey mentions, ideas have often fallen flat due to hitting dead ends.
He underscores Wool Impact's mission to enhance the value and demand for New Zealand's strong wool, with an emphasis on sustainable and profitable growth.
"What we want to do is optimise what these current manufacturers have got," Caughey states, highlighting the hub's goal to support the local manufacturing potential.
He further elaborates on the criteria for selecting projects, stressing the importance of ideas that can support a higher and more sustainable price for wool and contribute to environmental sustainability.
Looking ahead to 2024, Caughey expresses optimism about the industry's direction. He speaks of innovation-led demand and the hub's focus on supporting domestic brands, market development and tapping into offshore markets, particularly in the architecture and design space.
He sees strong potential for strong wool to reclaim its place in homes and offices as a natural, safe, and clean material, mentioning that "now is the time for strong wool to come back."
The episode also touches on the positive government stance towards strong wool, with the new administration signalling support for incorporating wool-based products into government buildings. This, Caughey believes, sends a powerful message to commercial companies about the value of strong wool.
Listen to the full chat between Andy and Dominic George above.