INTERVIEW: NATS SUBRAMANIAN
ROLE: BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT MANAGER
ORGANISATION: CENTRAL ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT AGENCY
WEB: WWW.CEDA.NZ

Who is Your Organisation?

We are CEDA, the Central Economic Development Agency representing Palmerston North and Manawatu.

We exist to drive and facilitate the creation of growth and economic wealth in Manawatu and beyond.

With expertise in marketing, communications, business support and development, investment facilitation, destination management, facilitating the talent eco system we work collectively to foster regional and economic development.

Alongside our partners including central and local government agencies, CEDA works across three strategic pillars of economic development People, Place and Business, and our success is underpinned and enabled by the strength of our relationships with regional and national partners.

What are the high-level goals of your organisation in relation to supporting entrepreneurship and innovation?

We believe that Manawatū has the leadership and ingredients to reposition itself on the national stage as a vibrant and innovative region that will be the first choice for talent, business and investment.

We’re laser focused on our three big goals by 2025 which are:

  • Manawatū is recognised as one of the top three agrifood hubs in the world
  • Manawatū is a leading distribution hub, and leverages off its role in central New Zealand
  • Manawatū is renowned for its exceptional lifestyle, competitive advantages, and is a magnet for investment, business, and talent

CEDA works across the three strategic pillars of economic development; People, Place and Business, and our success is underpinned and enabled by the strength of our relationships with our regional and national partners.

Our core objectives, programmes and activities are all aligned to these pillars, and are designed to create the environment, stimulus, outcomes, and impact that will power our economic prosperity and achieve our vision for Palmerston North city and Manawatū district.

  1. Attract retain and develop talent in the region
  2. Attract, retain and develop business and investment in the region
  3. Profile the region to attract people, business and investment

What were some of the key programmes or initiatives run in 2021 in relation to supporting entrepreneurship and innovation?

Advancing innovation is a priority for CEDA and we are an enabler, partner and supporter of several programmes creating an environment where people and businesses can grow, innovate and start new ventures to foster economic growth and employment opportunities within the region. CEDA is proud to play its part in this space by partnering with the Sprout Accelerator to support with the selection process, mentoring and marketing helping aspiring AgTech or FoodTech start-ups transform into investment-ready businesses.

CEDA sponsors Innovate, an annual event bringing people together to go through a journey of life as a start-up business. Each finalist has five minutes to convince the judges that they had the best idea to win the cash prize plus immediate entry to the Factory accelerator programme at the Factory at Massey University.

CEDA partners with Business Mentors New Zealand to connect business owners and entrepreneurs with those who can provide one-on-one advice to help them to start, grow or solve business challenges and share their experiences.

In partnership with Callaghan Innovation, CEDA has given out $868,381.00* of Research and Development grants to businesses looking to take a product, process or service from development to commercialisation, or to bring tertiary students on board to help with R&D activity during the last financial year.

We also connect businesses with experts, researchers, students and graduates at Massey University, Plant & Food Research, AgResearch, FoodHQ, the Food Innovation Network, The Factory, potential investors, IP specialists and more.

What have been some of the highlight achievements or moments that stand out for you and your team this year?

Central New Zealand Distribution Hub

Palmerston North and Manawatū is the natural and logical centre for distribution across central New Zealand with a unique multi-modal transport system of rail, road, air, and sea via port.

To capitalise on this unique position, for the economic and social benefit of the region, Palmerston North City Council (PNCC) and the Central Economic Development Agency (CEDA) have developed a strategy that outlines the region’s approach to becoming the central North Island’s primary distribution hub.

The strategy is already gaining traction through the accelerated advocacy work with local and central government, industry, and key stakeholders.

ADA

In partnership with PNCC, CEDA supported Australian Defence Apparel (ADA) to move their New Zealand headquarters to Palmerston North following the award of the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) Wearables Supply and Managed Services contract.

In return, this has created employment opportunities creating sixteen new jobs without comprising positions in the nine NZDF retail stores and a unique set of opportunities for businesses within the region, located within the Central New Zealand Distribution Hub and home of New Zealand’s well established and reputable military capital, here in Manawatū.

Business support

Over the past year, CEDA has supported over 975 businesses in our region to help them grow and develop sustainably, invest in research and development, connect to the right experts, tools, and information, and give access to capability development via shared funding with key service providers.

CEDA has funded $6.7 million through RBP capability funding, COVID-19 advisory, tourism funding and Callaghan funding & loans scheme

Another milestone was supporting our business community in a changing, challenging COVID-19 environment. RBP: Govt gave 100% funding towards business continuity, wellbeing, digital enablement, marketing, finance & cashflow and HR.

Manawatu Agritech Strategy

The Manawatū Agritech Strategy was launched in 2019 and was the first regional strategy of its kind in New Zealand. Developed in partnership with global agritech accelerator Sprout and regional stakeholders a vision was born to grow the agrifood sector for the benefit of New Zealand’s food industry.

The strategy sets Manawatū apart when it comes to attracting businesses, investment and talent, offering potential investors and strategic players an opportunity to be innovative, with the capability, knowledge and activity that they can access in one visit, or one engagement significantly increased.

CEDA’s role is to identify our comparative and competitive advantages as a region by setting the direction and secure buy-in from stakeholders and implement the strategy, driving the region towards achieving its goal of being recognised as one of the top three agrifood hubs in the world.

Initiatives already underway include:

  • Opening of Te Ohu Rangahau Kai Joint Food Science Facility between Massey and AgResearch
  • Roaming Networker report, a compilation and reporting (quarterly and annual) of activities that happen in the Agritech sector with the region.
  • New Zealand AgriFood Week
  • Massey International Hort Immersion Program
  • Establishment of Sprout specialised AgTech and FoodTech Accelerator & Incubator

Given the renewed challenges and disruptions posed by COVID this year, what effect (if any) has this had on the entrepreneurial spirit and/or output of your local entrepreneurs in relation to innovation?

Throughout COVID-19 lockdowns, CEDA has monitored across each alert level in past 18 months and has consistently kept in touch with businesses to get a sense of what’s happening to understand the impacts and challenges on businesses and sectors under each Alert Level to inform the tailored business support, resources, and tools that CEDA delivers across the business community.

In line with the trend across the country, what we have seen when we went into Alert Level 4 in August, was that businesses were much more prepared than they were in 2020, having been through it before and knowing what to expect. Businesses have been here before, and have that resilience and experience of dealing with the unexpected and the uncontrollable.

Are there any local businesses or entrepreneurs that stand out for you in terms of addressing innovation challenges or showing exceptional entrepreneurial spirit in 2021?

Don Sandbroke – our very own serial inventor and successful businessman. Inventing Frog Parking – named the fastest-growing exporter in the Wellington and lower North Island at the Deloitte Fast 50 regional awards and the brainchild behind Greentech Robotics, developing the world’s first fully autonomous commercial weeding robot.


Innovation Nation is a series celebrating stories of innovation and entrepreneurship from around New Zealand.

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