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Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment

Virtual Forestry Data Innovation Lab

On 20th October 2021, the i4 Accelerator Program and Scion are launching the forestry data innovation lab. The lab has a virtual format and is hosted by Scion at its Rotorua campus. The lab will act as a focal point for the local economy, helping businesses and organisations of all sizes design and execute data-driven innovation projects and strategies. i4 Data Innovation Labs also encourage and support Data + AI upskilling and reskilling for leaders, workers, vocational trainees, and university students to drive digital industry in New Zealand.

Between now and June 2022, the i4 Program will collaborate on a set of industry engagement and intervention activities across a national network of seven regional Data Innovation Labs, Industrial Data Spaces, and an online Open Innovation Platform to connect data-driven ideas with talent.

Many of the Data Innovation Labs will have a local industry focus. In addition to this new forestry lab in the Bay of Plenty, labs will concentrate on food and fibre in Hawkes Bay, agritech in the Manawatu, and advanced manufacturing in Otago.

Crown research institute Scion undertakes scientific research and technology development for the forestry sector and the manufacturing and bioproducts innovation space. One of Scion’s focus areas is creating innovations for a rapidly evolving future where trees have the potential to replace everything for which we currently rely on fossil fuels. Digital-led innovation is underpinning many of Scion’s research areas, and they have developed a specific portfolio connected to the new value that can be achieved through digitisation and automation.

Arron Judson, General Manager Innovation and Partnerships at Scion and a founding partner of the i4 2021 Advisory Board, says:

“The Industry 4.0 revolution will increase productivity and supply chain innovation, shift economics, change the composition of our workforces and foster industrial growth, ultimately changing the competitiveness of New Zealand companies and regions. The Bay of Plenty Forestry Lab aims to promote data sharing across the industrial forestry chain, increasing efficiency. We’re looking to develop a more outward focus, measuring success through impact, collaboration and partnerships.”

Research has revealed data-driven innovation and collaboration could deliver $4.5 billion in benefits to the New Zealand economy by helping businesses improve operational efficiency, make better decisions around strategy and investment, and upskill and reskill workforces.

The i4 Program seeks to identify new data-driven innovation patterns across the nation and connect education providers, young people, career professionals, and employers amid widespread AI and data skills shortages. Arron Judson says that i4 and Scion will be working together to encourage collaboration across industry, Māori, the public sector, and research communities and identify opportunities for building networks that benefit New Zealand individuals, employers, and both local and national economies.

“In effect, what is currently transpiring in the New Zealand workplace is a growing skills mismatch between what our industries need and what talent can offer. Part of the i4 Program’s mission is to change that by building digital skills and the Entrepreneurial Workplace through the adoption of Industry 4.0 technologies and ecosystem-based business models. Data Innovation Labs provide an ideal environment for identifying and creating ongoing value-producing collaborations and encouraging the development of real-world data skills.”

The Industry 4.0 (i4) Accelerator Program assists New Zealand industries when thinking more about employing data-driven technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT), helping to solve real-world problems and to further drive innovation for social and economic good. The 2021 i4 Program is funded through the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment as part of the Digital Technology Industry Transformation Programme

You can find out more about the i4 Program here:

For media enquiries, please contact: 

Malcolm Fraser,

More about Scion

Scion is a Crown research institute that undertakes research, science and technology development for the forestry, wood product, wood-derived materials and other biomaterial sectors. Scion’s work contributes to beneficial economic, environmental and social outcomes for New Zealand. The institute employs approximately 340 people and has its head office in Rotorua. Scion is the trading name for New Zealand Forest Research Institute Limited. For more information, please visit

More about the i4 Accelerator Program 

The i4 Accelerator Program works with a number of cross-sector regional and global partners. The programme’s core focus is to support development by empowering New Zealand businesses and industries to take advantage of the opportunities made available by AI & data-driven innovations. It aims to solve real-world problems and drive innovative products and services.

Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment We are the New Zealand Government’s leading business-facing agency. We provide world class policy, advice, regulation and services to support New Zealand businesses to grow.