Product Innovation Fund

We partnered with organisations with transformational ideas that reimagine what an education from New Zealand could mean.

The Education New Zealand Manapou ki te Ao (ENZ) run International Education (IE) Product Innovation Fund funded programmes that delivered new, meaningful and unique learning experiences from New Zealand, for the world.

The programme helped providers create new products and services pilots aimed at transforming the way international learning is developed, promoted and delivered.

Lessons learnt from the programme will assist in developing future education products and services for the benefit of the entire international education sector.

Read on to find out more and if you’ve got questions check out the FAQ section

Read the stimulus paper

Read “Key Shifts: The Future of Learning in a Global Context” a stimulus paper for the International Education Product Innovation Fund. This white paper summarises ideas developed through a series of workshops conducted by Education New Zealand in 2020 and 2021 with a number of New Zealanders from a range of industries, who have experience in innovation, business strategy and new product development.

The following profiles showcase the successful projects that have received funding from the International Education Product Innovation Fund. Eight projects have been funded by the programme, which cover a range of topics such as financial education, leadership development, indigenous entrepreneurship, virtual reality for medical education and more. Each profile has a brief description of its goals, outcomes, and partners, as well as links to learn more. The recipients demonstrate the diversity and innovation of New Zealand's education sector and its potential to create positive impact for learners and communities around the world.


An underlying principle of the IE Product Innovation Fund is building value generating partnerships of mutual benefit based on reciprocity. Below is an overview of what we have to offer and what we seek in the delivery of pilot projects.

What we offered

  • New Zealand Government backed opportunity and ENZ partnership

  • Funding pool of $1 million in the 21/22 FY, with a further $2 million in the 22/23 FY – we’re looking to fund pilot projects up to $300k per pilot, but are open to considering proposals that seek greater funding

  • Connections – global connections, government support, coordination and credibility

  • Encouragement, support and permission to innovate via test and learn approach

What we sought

  • Commitment to this kaupapa​

  • Commitment of resource: staff & funding​

  • Relevant expertise and capabilities to achieve success​

  • Commitment to reporting and sharing lessons and insights for broader benefit​

  • New ways of doing things, global thinking and collaboration​

  • Willingness to give best effect to Te Tiriti o Waitangi​

  • Willingness to be lean and adopt a test & learn approach

The kinds of ideas we supported

The fund had a clear framework for the types of international education pilot project ideas that we supported, set out below. The strategic principles in this framework reflected a view of the future that was developed by ENZ in consultation with innovative thinkers from within and outside the sector.

Pilot projects supported by this programme explored ideas for new international education products or services that met some of these strategic principles below. The projects explored two or three of the principles and not others, or aimed to explore all, dependent on the breadth of the pilot project idea.

Strategic Principles


New in sense of the product/service, and in the context of NZ education. This could mean new in terms of the delivery, the configuration, the experience, the approach to design, the learner and learner outcomes, the types of collaboration etc.

Learner Centered.

Central to it were learners, ensuring there were clear learner needs and an opportunity to deliver value to learners, to prepare them for their futures.

Cause Impact.

We believe the ‘sweet spot’ NZ can lead in is Global Causes, creating impact by making contributions of consequence, shifting the dial. We may not need to be the best in the world, but we want to be the best for the world, in something we can become globally known for.

Kaupapa Māori.

Pilots that explore kaupapa Māori, either led by, or partnered with, Iwi/hapū or other Māori interests were considered favourably. This was an opportunity to pilot Tiriti partnership in action in accordance with the stated purpose of the Education and Training Act 2020.

Global and Scalable.

We sought pilots that had global relevance, that served a purpose beyond our nation’s borders, where there was clear global need and partnership potential. The ideas needed the ability to scale and be sustainable beyond the pilot.

Sector Strength.

We sought to work where there was some pre-existing education sector capability, interest and intent, that was multi-disciplinary, and where the pilot opportunity could act as an incubator or accelerator to fast-track opportunities.

NZ Government Aligned.

We favoured pilots that supported central government priorities. For example, we knew the government was keen to support initiatives that could create opportunities for our Pacific neighbours and region, or iwi endeavour, or the industry transformation agenda.

NZ Inc. & Brand NZ.

We sought opportunities where there was a clear ability to lead, from both an ‘NZ Inc’ perspective or from a ‘Brand NZ’ point of view.

Frequently asked questions

The International Education (IE) Product Innovation Fund is funded by the Covid Response and Recovery Fund (CRRF) as a result of the New Zealand government’s Strategic Recovery Plan for International Education.  

The programme encourages new and transformational approaches to international education from New Zealand. The fund is one of a number of initiatives from ENZ to help the international education sector achieve a sustainable future. 

Its objective is to enable education providers to explore, co-design, develop and test pilots for new international education products and services to transform the sector.

The results of these pilots will inform recommendations to the Government in September 2023.  The paper will draw on the lessons learned from the pilot projects and make recommendations on the investment in the development and diversification of international education.

We are seeking applications from individuals or organisations who can provide fresh, new ideas for the sector. We wish to build a kaupapa whānau of organisations committed to building a unique and meaningful international education experience from New Zealand.

If you are exploring and building something new, we want to hear from you and explore your plans together.

The IE Product Innovation Fund has clear funding considerations, set out here. These strategic principles reflect a view of the future of international education that has been developed by ENZ in consultation with innovative thinkers from within and outside the sector.

There is a two-stage process for applying to the fund.  

Stage one:  Register Interest Applicants register their interest by May 4 2022.  Registrations of interest can be made online using this form. Applicants are encouraged to check out the following short videos on Key Shifts and The Power of Themes.  These videos help to describe our thinking about how New Zealand can prosper in international education.

Stage two:  Apply to the Fund Applicants will then by notified by May 9 if they have been selected to participate in a workshop on either May 11 or 12 that will arm them with the tools for creating a successful application to the fund.  Applications are due by June 1 and will be judged based on face-to-face discussions.

The global pandemic has ushered in a new era of international education.  Border closures and restrictions on travel have emptied classrooms and devastated a sector previously reliant on many thousands of visitors to New Zealand. 

The industry has responded bravely and with entrepreneurial flair - but no one is expecting a return to “business as usual”.  Moving forward, New Zealand has an opportunity to reimagine what this new era of international education could mean for New Zealand.

In 2021, the Government recognised this opportunity and provided ENZ with $8m over two years to develop fresh thinking. The programme consists of two workstreams: (1) developing new products and services and (2) diversification of delivery methods. The workstreams are made up of pilots with opportunities to assess, evolve and exit as they are run.

The IE Product Innovation Fund encourages the creation of new products and services aimed at transforming the way international learning is developed, promoted and delivered. It seeks to answer questions such as:

  • What new international education products and services could set NZ apart from its competitors?

  • How do students want to engage with the NZ education experience – online, in their home country, in NZ, mixed?

  • What is the best way to deliver this future experience for students and for NZ?

  • What is the best way to increase the sector’s resilience to future shocks like COVID-19?

  • How do we best give effect to Te Tiriti o Waitangi?