Cultural Sector Innovation Fund: Te Urungi Innovating Aotearoa

Online information sessions

Manatū Taonga hosted two online information sessions about Te Urungi: Innovating Aotearoa. You can view the videos via the links below. 

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For all queries, please contact the Manatū Taonga team at [email protected].

The first phase of support from the Innovation Fund has been delivered through a nationwide events series, Te Urungi: Innovating Aotearoa.

These immersive, collaborative events are designed to harness our collective creative energy and innovative spirit to fuel bold ideas that enable arts, culture and heritage to adapt and thrive. 

However, in light of the COVID-19 disruption, Manatū Taonga is creating an online format so Te Urungi can continue to reach across the rohe to support the arts and culture sector even during COVID-19 alert level escalations.

At alert levels above 1, Te Urungi will take place online.

Changes being fast-tracked include rescheduling events to allow for face to face delivery where COVID-19 alert levels allow, and preparing to reach every region in all eventualities with an online event.

Moving from an immersive kanohi ki te kanohi face-to-face weekend to online delivery provides us with new challenges and opportunities: Manatū Taonga is working with the sector and mana whenua in each region to create the best experience possible for participants and to support achievement of the fund outcomes.

More information 

About the Innovation Fund

About Te Urungi Events

Additional information

About the Innovation Fund

Innovation Fund purpose and outcomes


The purpose of the Cultural Sector Innovation Fund is to support innovative projects that improve the sustainability and resilience of the cultural sector.


  • Sector sustainability and resilience are increased 
  • Commercial opportunities are increased 
  • Access and participation are improved

Within these outcome areas there is also a focus on supporting projects that will safeguard mātauranga Māori.

All participants should consider the needs of the community that it intends to engage with. 

Types of projects the Innovation Fund will support

While the Fund is open to projects that will benefit individual organisations or groups, in most cases there needs to be a broader sector reach and impact to receive funding. We are looking for ideas that solve sector challenges or bring about transformational change for people, the sector or audiences. Manatū Taonga is looking for ideas that are beyond business as usual. 

Recent technology is not in itself likely to be considered innovative. While many submitted projects are in a digital space, this does not make them more or less eligible for funding. There is however a focus on supporting projects that will help safeguard mātauranga Māori while nurturing the innovation potential of this rich system of indigenous knowledge. Many applicants have chosen to use digital innovations to do this. 

Examples of the sorts of innovative projects that could be eligible for funding include: 

  • an arts organisation using digital technology to bring an immersive creative experience to audiences around the world. 
  • new ways to support the preservation, retention, and transmission of mātauranga Māori.
  • projects which explore new business models that solve long-standing challenges for the cultural sector.
  • a collaboration between government, private and philanthropic sectors that creates a new arts social enterprise, creating public and social good, employment and economic benefits. 
  • projects which create new and innovative ways for people to create, deliver or consume existing or new cultural products and taonga.
  • projects which use innovative approaches combining technology, education and art to reduce or remove barriers to participation for people with disabilities.

We encourage people to think beyond these examples – this fund is open to consider any innovative projects that support its outcomes.

About Te Urungi events

Te Urungi: Innovating Aotearoa will be an empowering, mana-enhancing experience.

We know there is no shortage of creative ideas out there; Te Urungi events series provides an opportunity and support to help people bring those ideas to fruition. 

 At these multi-day events, participants are supported to explore ideas for projects that will increase sustainability, access and participation or commercial opportunities within the arts, culture, and heritage sector. During the event, participants can present their project to the Te Urungi evaluation panel who will consider it for either seed or project funding. 

While securing funding will be a key goal for participants, these events are designed so that everyone walks away with new knowledge, skills and connections.  

Hear what some of the participants at the first Te Urungi event in Te Whanganui-a-Tara Wellington had to say about their experience

Te Urungi indicative event programme

Opening evening (regional events only)

Welcome followed by speakers, performances and activities exploring the Te Urungi kaupapa.

Day one

Te Urungi facilitators will guide teams through a range of activities using tools designed to help them test and refine their ideas. There will be group sessions as well as opportunities for teams to have one-on-one sessions with their facilitators. There will also be a range of experts on standby to help. Examples of the kinds of experts likely to be at Te Urungi include those with experience in legal, finance, kaupapa Māori as well as brand, web and user experience design.

The format for the day is flexible and designed to support the needs of teams with emerging ideas as well as those with well-developed projects. 

Day two

Each team will have the opportunity to book a confidential 10-minute session with the evaluation panel to present their project. 

At regional events, facilitators will also be available to continue supporting teams with their project development throughout day two.   

Te Urungi: Innovating Aotearoa event schedule

Te Urungi began its journey in Te Whanganui-a-Tara Wellington region on 30 April – 2 May 2021. From here it will travel across the motu and will be offered online.  

Te Urungi: Innovating Aotearoa schedule 

Te Urungi: Innovating Aotearoa eligibility 

Registrations to participate in Te Urungi are open to those who work in arts, culture, and heritage, as well as the tech sector, entrepreneurs, community organisations, kaupapa Māori initiatives and others.  

Anyone with an innovative idea that has the potential to transform the arts, culture and heritage sector and enhance the enormous value it brings to Aotearoa, is encouraged to register. 

Registrations are open to teams of between one and five people. 

Further details:

  • an organisation can only register one team in the Te Urungi: Innovating Aotearoa event series, although in exceptional circumstances Manatū Taonga might allow more than one team* 
  • individuals who work for an organisation that has registered a team can register to attend in a personal capacity either as an individual or as part of a collaborative team
  • central government departments are not eligible to register a team in the Te Urungi: Innovating Aotearoa event series. Individuals who work in government departments can register in a personal capacity, except for individuals who work for Manatū Taonga who cannot register.

*An example of an exception that Manatū Taonga may consider includes a large organisation that operates or delivers more than one significant, distinct cultural activity. Manatū Taonga will consider each scenario on a case-by-case basis.

Securing an exception does not guarantee more than one team from an organisation will gain a place in the Te Urungi events series. Capacity is limited and registrations will be accepted in the order they are received.

Organisations wishing to be considered for an exception should contact: [email protected].

Registration process

The registration date for each Te Urungi: Innovating Aotearoa event will be published on the events schedule page as they are confirmed.

Registrations will be accepted in the order they are received.

Capacity at Te Urungi events is limited to enable effective collaboration and ensure participants receive the support they need from facilitators and experts. 

  • Regional events can accommodate up to 80 people
  • Online events can accommodate up to 150 people

Teams unable to gain a place at their preferred regional event will be added to a waitlist. If no places become available, attending an online event is another option. We will monitor levels of interest in Te Urungi and consider further opportunities, if required.

Acknowledging the benefits diversity has for innovation, we will ensure reasonable ethnic, gender and sector representation.

COVID contingency

Regional Te Urungi events will take place at alert level 1. At alert level 2 or 3 they will be switched to online delivery. 

Intellectual property

This is an important issue we know will be on everyone’s mind. We have developed some simple guidance to help participants navigate issues related to intellectual property.

There will also be experts available at Te Urungi events to provide additional guidance.

Funding available 

The Cultural Sector Innovation Fund provides a total of $60 million in support over three years. 

There are two funding streams available to participants in round one Te Urungi events, seed funding and project funding. 

  • Seed funding provides up to $20,000 to enable a team to further progress their idea to a point that they are ready to apply for further funding. Seed funding could be used to engage specific expertise, for example a lawyer, a designer, or technical expert. It could also be used to support the people in the team to take the time to develop their project. 
  • In terms of project funding, the amount available will depend on the individual project and its potential reach and impact. 

Further details:

  • Manatū Taonga will only fund a maximum of one project per team through the Te Urungi event series.
  • Teams who use seed funding to validate and develop an idea to the stage where it is ready for implementation can seek funding from any source including other funding bodies, philanthropic or investor support.    
  • It may be possible for projects that receive seed funding to seek project funding from the Innovation Fund later however receiving seed funding does not guarantee further project funding. 

Evaluation and decision-making

Proposals for funding through Te Urungi: Innovating Aotearoa are  evaluated by a panel, which will include members with knowledge and expertise in arts, culture and heritage, innovation and kaupapa Māori. 

The panel will base their recommendations on a face-to-face session with each team and supporting documentation provided. 

Panel meetings

During the Te Urungi event, each team will have the opportunity to meet the evaluation panel and discuss their project. Each confidential session is 10 minutes long, providing time for the teams to present their project and for the panel to ask questions.

Through these sessions, the panel will be looking to understand how each project could help achieve the Innovation Fund purpose and outcomes.

The panel will use a set of evaluation criteria to help guide their discussion with each team and to make their funding recommendations.

Supporting information

To support the panel with their evaluation, teams will also need to submit some project documentation.  This documentation will be due after the panel meeting.

  • Seed Funding: Teams applying for seed funding will need to submit a simple plan on a page for their project by the end of the Te Urungi event. We will supply a specific plan on a page template and  Te Urungi facilitators will support teams to complete their plan on a page during the event
  • Project Funding: Teams wishing to apply for project funding will need to submit a project plan. There is no fixed format for this project plan other than a 12-page maximum. Facilitators  will work with teams during the event to build on any planning documents they may already have. This project plan guidance outlines the sort of things the panel will expect to see covered in the plan. This guidance is also provided in the Te Urungi Event Guide. 

Communicating decisions

  • Seed funding applications will be evaluated after each event. We expect to communicate decisions approximately four to six weeks after each event.
  • Project funding applications from multiple events will be evaluated together to help ensure we are supporting a diverse range of projects addressing the fund outcomes across Aotearoa. This means the timeframe for decisions will be different for different events. As a guide, we expect to communicate project funding decisions within around ten to twelve weeks of an event.

How developed do projects need to be? 

Regional events

Te Urungi regional events are designed to cater to teams with ideas and projects in different stages of development from initial concept to business case stage. 

Online events

The first online event on 12 May was designed for developed innovation projects – projects that were ready to apply for project funding, as opposed to seed funding for further development of an initiative.

The timing and criteria for subsequent online events will be confirmed at a later date.

Additional information

Why is the Innovation Fund being delivered through events?

Te Urungi is an adaption of event-based models that have been used successfully to generate innovation in  sectors including government, technology and science. 

Innovation requires us to think and work differently. Research suggests that bringing together people with different perspectives, skills, interests, mātauranga and experiences to work collaboratively is an effective way to nurture innovation.  

With Te Urungi, we are looking to create a collaborative, supportive environment that allows all participants to fully explore the innovation potential of their ideas.

Sector input

We sought feedback from the arts, culture, and heritage sector about the Innovation Fund in September 2020. The decision to adopt this event-based delivery model was informed by sector feedback. Sector representatives said they felt traditional contestable fund application processes encouraged competition as opposed to collaboration and could be a disempowering experience.  

They also said that more traditional processes tended to favour larger well-resourced organisations and created barriers for smaller organisations and independent practitioners. 

As part of the detailed design for Te Urungi, we sought specific feedback from a focus group of Māori practitioners working in the arts, culture and heritage sector. We have also taken advice from a range of people with experience supporting innovation in different sectors.  

The regional rollout of Te Urungi will allow for changes to the approach to be made along the way, if required. The needs of each of our regional communities and their challenges and opportunities will be different. Prior to each event, we will work with mana whenua and other key stakeholders to ensure the event programme is designed to achieve the best outcomes for those communities. 

Updated on 8th October 2021