Wool-ovation competition launched to find the next big idea for wool

As innovative products using New Zealand merino wool take the world by storm, the search is on for the next big idea.

Among the most high profile companies using New Zealand merino wool is Allbirds which produced the Wool Runner shoe made from New Zealand superfine merino wool.

The company is now valued at $1.4 billion.

A competition has been launched by innovation media company Idealog and New Zealand Merino Wool Company to encourage more innovative ideas for the use of wool.

NZ Merino's John Brakenridge said the business community is just skimming the tip of the iceberg when it comes to new uses for wool.
NZ Merino's John Brakenridge said the business community is just skimming the tip of the iceberg when it comes to new uses for wool. Photo credit: Supplied

The winner of the Wool-ovation competition will get to work with experts in New Zealand and the United States to bring their idea to reality.

The New Zealand Merino Company is already partner to a number of local and global businesses, including Allbirds, Glerups woollen indoor shoes and Paul Barron, who developed the world's first woollen surfboard.

Chief executive John Brakenridge said the business community is just skimming the tip of the iceberg when it comes to new uses for wool.

NZ Merino's innovation space, Studio ZQ in Christchurch.
NZ Merino's innovation space, Studio ZQ in Christchurch. Photo credit: Supplied

"We used to talk about this [the potential for wool] and it was all hypothetical, but now we have proof points, so the simple answer is we need more Allbirds, we need more Icebreakers, we need more Firewires," he said.

"There's real evidence of rewards for the entrepreneurs so I think in so many ways, it helps to engage the young, so they see they can be entrepreneurial and make a difference," said Brakenridge.

The company wants to help fast-track the revival of wool and recently launched Studio ZQ, an innovation space in the heart of Christchurch City.

The centre aims to develop creative business ideas and encourage more wool and fibre-based businesses.

Brakenridge said it was amazing to see new ideas for wool. 

"It takes a whole year to produce a fleece of wool and most of the time we don't even know who buys it."

Allbirds shoes are made from New Zealand merino wool.
Allbirds shoes are made from New Zealand merino wool. Photo credit: Supplied

"It's pretty cool to think it could end up in a rugby ball or a pair of shoes. We're really committed to growing good wool, it's heartening to see that there are designers out there that are committed to building great ideas with it."

The winner of the Wool-ovation competition will receive two all-expenses paid trips worth more than $7000: a five-day trip to Christchurch to develop their idea, and a five-day trip to San Francisco, USA, to meet with US-based innovation experts.

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