For Christchurch start-up Invert Robotics climbing the walls is a measure of its success.

The innovative tech company makes climbing robots for inspecting industrial facilities, like milk tanks at dairy processing plants, and is one of four Christchurch start-ups named as finalists in the 2012 New Zealand Hi-Tech Awards.

Invert Robotics, ArcActive, BIMStop and CropLogic are four of six finalists in the Ministry of Science and Innovation’s Start-up Award category. All four have backing from powerHouse Ventures, a public/private partnership between the Canterbury Development Corporation, the region’s tertiary and research institutions and private investors.

CDC chief executive Tom Hooper said the fact that four of the six finalists were powerHouse-backed showed the success of that partnership approach. Canterbury was lucky to have excellent tertiary institutions in the University of Canterbury, Lincoln University and CPIT.

“The research they undertake leads to the innovation we see today.”

The Canterbury Regional Innovation System was vital for developing local innovation. It co-ordinated the discovery and review of innovation and was working well and delivering a pipeline of innovative companies, Hooper said.

Invert Robotics and ArcActive are both spin-outs from University of Canterbury.

Invert Robotics’ wall-climbing robot checks tanks for cracking. The robot is also able to film as it travels, which means the footage can be replayed for more thorough checking.

The company has recently completed a trial at Fonterra’s Kaikoura facility where its robot inspection of tanks generated an overwhelmingly positive response from the dairy giant, Invert Robotics chief executive James Robertson said.

ArcActive is developing a lead carbon battery technology for micro hybrid cars and this month won the international award for excellence in the field of environmental technology research at the CleanEquity Monaco conference.

Online crop management system company CropLogic already has significant potato grower clients in the United States, and technology company BIMStop has developed an online network of nearly 12,000 architects globally who are accessing BIMStop’s clients’ building products in a similar way to the way shoppers use Amazon.

PowerHouse chief executive Stephen Hampson said Canterbury was not only rich in technology, but also rich in entrepreneurs, and with four of the six finalists in the start-up category, the region was “punching above its weight”.

The winners of the 2012 Hi-Tech Awards will be announced in Auckland on May 11. Judges include original Facebook investor Peter Thiel, the director of engineering for Google in New York, Craig Nevill-Manning, and senior vice-president for Cisco, Howard Charney.

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