The evolution of Wellington’s place of innovation: Creative HQ enters its 20th year with a brand new look

Wellington’s home of innovation, Creative HQ, is celebrating entering its 20th year by reflecting on its evolution over the past two decades and unveiling a fresh new look and brand.

Wellington, 27 April 2022

Creative HQ was established in 2003 through Wellington’s economic development agency, at the time called Positively Wellington Business, and now known as WellingtonNZ. It was tasked with supporting the development of high-growth new businesses, with a focus on emerging technologies. Creative HQ Chief Executive, Catherine Jones, says that their remit and reach have grown significantly.

“Over the past two decades, Creative HQ has evolved from a niche local service provider to an internationally recognised thriving hub of innovation where leaders and changemakers from all sectors come to solve problems and make their bold ideas take flight,” says Jones. “Wellington is rich with all of the ingredients that thriving entrepreneurial ecosystems need.”

“Incredibly successful tech companies exist here in Wellington, and we lead the world in government innovation. Businesses of all sizes are looking to innovation to help them attract, build and retain talent with the skill sets needed to better serve their customers,” continues Jones. “Innovation has emerged through the pandemic as the single most important ingredient for rebuilding modern economies.” 

“Whichever sector you work in, Creative HQ can help. Our remit – and brand – has evolved to reflect this.”

Startups, entrepreneurs and the Lightning Lab era of Creative HQ

Creative HQ was set up to provide startups with a workspace and mentors to ensure they had the foundational business tools and knowledge they needed to get off the ground. From there, the Lightning Lab Accelerator programme was built – providing a brand new model of accelerated startup support in Aotearoa. 

“Lightning Lab gave founder-led startups seed funding combined with a highly structured programme that included coaching and mentoring through 12-weeks of intensive sprint cycles,” says Jones. “And we’ve now run around 30 accelerator programmes targeted at supporting new startups to provide solutions for New Zealand’s most pressing challenges and most timely opportunities.”

“We typically specialise in early growth startups,” says Jones.  “And we have a range of programmes to help them turn their ideas into scalable, investible businesses”. 

Creative HQ’s innovation accelerator programmes begin with a pre-incubation offering to help demystify innovation and give individuals with great ideas some basic tools to validate whether that idea is a viable business opportunity. Once established, businesses can apply to be a part of Creative HQ’s incubation or acceleration programmes. 

Creative HQ’s second Climate Response Accelerator has just launched in response to demand from entrepreneurs and investors alike following a successful first Climate Response Accelerator in 2021.  The 8 businesses who participated in the first Climate Response Accelerator received an aggregate of around $4m in funding upon completion of their 12-weeks. Whilst their incubator programmes are sector agnostic, Creative HQ’s accelerator programmes focus on both addressing pressing challenges, like climate change, and supercharging sectors that show promise or economic potential, like FinTech and tourism.

Taking a startup approach and applying it to government – the evolution of GovTech

Back in 2015, as Lightning Lab was delivering successful startup outcomes, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) approached Creative HQ, wondering if the model could be applied to government.

Over the course of three years, a version of the Lightning Lab Accelerator programme was set up called the R9 Accelerator. MBIE teams were put through the 12-week intensive innovation programme to deliver solutions for government challenges. 

The initiative gained traction with other government departments and now, seven years later, what is now known as Creative HQ’s GovTech Accelerator is entering its fifth year. The GovTech Accelerator has since supported 38 public sector projects.

“The evolution of the GovTech Accelerator is one of the reasons that New Zealand is viewed internationally as a world leader in public sector innovation,” says Jones.  

Creative HQ now delivers a range of government innovation programmes, including the GovTech Accelerator, to governments around the world including across Asia and the Pacific.

The evolution of the School of Innovation

The third key area of development in Creative HQ’s innovation programmes is its School of Innovation – a place for individuals and organisations to build the skills, capabilities and mindsets that are needed to create a workforce of modern problem solvers. 

“This is vital in a world where the problems have become bigger and more complex, and the pace of technology is replacing jobs,” says Jones.  “Time and time again we hear that immersive learning in innovation better enables individuals to be work-ready. Our School of Innovation offers a mix of qualifications, programmes, and experiences that are now a key part of Creative HQ’s mission to support innovation and entrepreneurship more broadly.”

Creative HQ’s School of Innovation delivers training in innovation through Certificates in Applied Innovation, Innovation Delivery and Online Delivery. They also run a Young Founders Incubator, as well as thought leadership and research around Gen Z and why innovation should be taught in schools. 

Creative HQ is about to commence its annual Innovation Hack programme, which enables young talent to solve a real-world challenge statement set for them by some of New Zealand’s leading organisations through a 15-week structured programme designed to fit around existing work and study.  

“It’s such a hot topic right now. Investing in innovation needs to start much earlier than the average age of our entrepreneurs through our startup programmes,” says Jones. “Our youth need to be trained in this thinking.”

“A brand says a lot about who you are. And we’re clear on that. Our purpose is to be wildly impactful for Wellington and to give others the energy they need to innovate. This is what we do. This is our kaupapa. Building capability, confidence and connectedness in innovation.”

Catherine Jones
CE, Creative HQ

A new era of being wildly impactful for Wellington

With nearly 20 years under the belt, Creative HQ is now looking at what this next era of innovation will bring.

“Creative HQ is your place of innovation – whether you’re an entrepreneur, a learner, or a public servant. We’re here to help you play on the edge, ask the hard questions and push the boundaries of problem-solving, with the goal to make a real impact” says Jones. 

The new Creative HQ brand has been created and designed by local Wellington design & brand agency, Ocean Design

“We got the opportunity to work on a refreshed brand identity for Creative HQ. Our vision was to revitalise the brand so that it was sophisticated, aspirational and confident,” says Ocean Design’s Blair Mainwaring. “The revitalised brand now reflects who Creative HQ are today and its aspirations for Wellington, Aotearoa New Zealand, and the world. It is crucial that the identity has flexibility, scalability and longevity.”

Jones says that the new brand reflects the kaupapa of Creative HQ.

“A brand says a lot about who you are. And we’re clear on that. Our purpose is to be wildly impactful for Wellington and to give others the confidence and the energy they need to be innovative,” continues Jones. “This is what we do. We build capability, confidence and connectedness in innovation and we are proudly anchored in Wellington.”

Check out our new media kit and for more information about Creative HQ please contact:

Ciara Craig
GM Engagement

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