Young Innovators paving the way for the future of work


Young innovators across the Bay of Plenty have come together this week to share their creative ideas, solve problems, experience artificial intelligence, and celebrate the Young Innovator Awards (yia!) for 2022.

The yia! programme, which was created to support young minds to learn new skills and allows budding innovators to connect with some of the region’s best in the sector, aims to lead the way in equipping the region’s future workforce with the skills to compete in a rapidly changing work environment.

Delivered by Priority One, alongside industry partners Woods Agency, Bluelab and Cucumber, the programme has been running for 12 years, attracting over 760 students from intermediate and secondary schools from across the Bay of Plenty. The programme gives students the opportunity to design and grow an idea, which is then judged by some of the region’s leading innovators and business people.

Priority One Project Manager, Meg Davis, says the yia! programme is a one-of-a-kind innovation programme, bringing together some of the smartest minds of Generation Z and the next generation of innovators, entrepreneurs, and game-changers.

“Not only does yia! support our rangitahi to share their amazing ideas, but it connects them with some of our leading innovators and empowers them to learn about design thinking. It is a programme designed to give them the skills needed for their future of work, and to go on to make their mark on the world” says Meg.

A real community event, this year over 30 judges from throughout the region came together to judge the 264 entries across three categories.

Head Judge, Jeannine Walsh, who leads Beca’s New Ventures Accelerator, says the judges have been super impressed with the calibre of innovation across the entries this year.

“It was exciting to see the variety and depth of ideas, from digital innovations to new products and services. The winning entries really impressed our judges and made for competitive judging.” says Jeannine.

“This is Beca’s seventh year sponsoring yia! and, on behalf of our team, we’re incredibly proud to support young people within the Tauranga region, to help them develop design and innovation skills that will be invaluable in their future employment and will make an impact in their lives and the communities we live in.” says Jeannine.

This year’s top-notch winning innovators were announced at an inaugural event on Thursday evening at Classic Flyers, which was hosted by Aria, an Artificial Intelligence (AI) Soul Machine, thanks to Datacom.

Aria is the first AI to open and host an event in the region, entertaining the 200 wide audience of entrants, students, teachers, parents, innovators and business people, and showcasing in real time the incredible power and future of innovation. 

The winning supreme innovations included the Goodbye Fire Extinguisher (The GFE), an inbuilt fire extinguisher for motorcycles, the H₂OK which is a wearable device to prevent drownings and MaiBand, a medical I.D wristband that uses NFC Technology to transmit patient medical data to paramedics.

The yia! programme continues to evolve as the next generation look to further the skills they need to be prepared for their future endeavours. Planning for the 2023 programme has already begun.

“The 2022 yia! programme has seen a wonderful group of rangitahi take part, and we look forward to working with the students and stakeholders to innovate the programme further for 2023 to ensure enduring relevance and to get more youth and businesses involved in this fantastic cause. We thank our sponsors, partners, judges, schools, and students that continue to support yia! and invest in bringing the programme to life each year” says Meg. For more information on the finalist entries, winners, sponsors and yia! programme visit