At the 2018 Commonwealth Games, three medal-winning field hockey teams – the Black Sticks, and the English and Australian sides – had one thing in common: their goalkeepers were all wearing OBO protective gear.

OBO is a Palmerston North-based company that makes flexible lightweight head-to-toe protective gear for hockey goal keepers, who find themselves in the firing line of hockey balls being hurled towards them at speeds of up to 150kmh.

OBO exports to 60 countries and has a 70 percent global market share of the hockey goalie market. The company’s motto is “Good Sh*t That Really Works,” and while it sounds like a Kiwi colloquialism, designing world-leading products is no easy feat. It takes innovation, research and development, and investment, which is where CEDA’s Business Growth Advisor, Research and Development Peter Ellingham comes in.

Peter worked with OBO to secure a Callaghan Innovation grant to allow the development of a new innovative goalie helmet. Part of the research to create the helmet, was to discover the best materials to use, taking into consideration strength versus weight for example.

Further support from CEDA was made available through our Regional Business Partners Network, where we focus on building better business capabilities. We were able to organise an Institute of Directors course to help one of OBO’s directors gain stronger governance and leadership skills.

“New product development is complex,” said OBO founder Simon Barnett. The helmet project was far bigger and more expensive than he expected, he said. “Peter helped guide us through the planning and application process and now we’ve ended up with a world-leading goalie product.”

Without the help from CEDA and Callaghan Innovation, OBO may not have taken up the challenge, he said.

“The temptation would have been to do nothing, which would not have been a good idea. Innovation is the life blood of this company and should be the lifeblood of any ambitious and successful company.

“These days new product development is vastly more complex than it used to be so I think the help from Callaghan and assistance of CEDA to work through the appropriate process and applications and understandings around that, makes it a viable option,” he said.

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