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March 2021,

Innovation key to countering COVID-19 impacts

Innovation in high performance sport has been a critical factor in remaining competitive for many years but the impacts of COVID-19 make it, along with a more targeted and tailored approach to Performance Support, even more vital.

HPSNZ General Manager Athlete Performance Support Dr Stafford Murray says New Zealander’s ability to innovate is a competitive advantage as other countries invest more in HP sport and winning margins on the world stage become increasingly slender.

“In a world of COVID-19 enforced travel restrictions and a lack of international training and competition for benchmarking, innovation takes on an even greater level of importance in the search for a competitive edge.”

Stafford says innovation is primarily considered as the design and implementation of bespoke scientific, technological or material interventions to improve performance.

“In New Zealand we are globally recognised for our relentless innovative methods of ‘solutioneering’ in HP sport and the HPSNZ innovation programme is recognised globally for delivering high impact, performance enhancing solutions.

“We’ve completed more than 150 innovation projects since the HPSNZ programme began, and we know we have delivered successful innovations here that other countries have put in the too hard basket – load paddles in canoe sprint and instrumented oarlocks in rowing, for example.”

These and other successes have fundamentally changed how the sports train and perform, creating tangible points of difference for New Zealand athletes.

The approach to Innovation in HPSNZ’s 2024 Strategy will broaden the focus from technology-based solutions to the delivery of other performance innovations that enhance competitive advantage, while driving a system wide culture of innovative processes and thinking.

“To maintain international competitiveness and continue evolving as a sustainable system we need a shift in the manner we think, work and act.”

In addition to enhancing the existing HPSNZ innovation programme, the 2024 Strategy will include a new workstream focused on Research and Innovation Practice (how we work) accelerating the delivery of benefits in ways that are sustained long after the innovation is complete.

To make this happen NSOs will have their own specific innovation plans with HPSNZ providing more flexible resources to align to sport needs, innovation friendly delivery models, operational processes that allow the identification and implementation of appropriate ideas/changes quickly, and training/development programmes that encourage innovative thinking and processes.

HPSNZ will also prioritise establishing partnerships with domestic and international academic and scientific institutions to increase innovation capacity and capability to support performance pathways.

“The outcome will be more solutions providing more impact across more sports.”

HPSNZ’s enhanced innovation programme will be complemented by an Intelligence programme designed to support a HP sport system that draws on accurate insights and informed decision making to further improve competitive advantage.