Specifically, a "navigator" who has been appointed by Wool Impact to connect individuals and businesses with the expertise and support to bring innovative wool ideas to life.
That role has gone to Anna Crosbie, who works in sector development and innovation across the primary industries, and in regional economic development, and who acknowledges she is "very eyes wide open" when it comes to the challenges surrounding the beleaguered strong-wool sector.
But she is also passionate about the fibre and excited about the opportunity for strong wool to be used "for different things and be a solution for different things".
Established in 2022, Wool Impact is a collaboration between the government and sheep sector partners under the Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures fund to grow export revenues for wool. Its formation was based on the 2021 recommendations of the Strong Wool Action Group.
Chief executive Andy Caughey said there were people and businesses with great ideas for the use of strong wool in new products and innovations but it was challenging for them to find the right expertise and support to turn those woolly ideas into reality.
"Innovation with strong wool is needed to increase demand and value for our strong-wool growers and value chain. There is no shortage of innovators and entrepreneurs with passion and ideas for wool, but they are not well supported.
"There is also a range of world-class strong wool expertise and manufacturing capability in New Zealand that is not well known. Add to that the range of public and private support for innovation and there should be a thriving innovation ecosystem out there," Mr Caughey said.
The Ministry for Primary Industries’s Situation and Outlook report released last month said lower export revenues attributable to India, Italy and the UK drove an 8% decline in total revenues for wool in the year to June 30, 2023, following an 11% increase in 2021-22.
China remained the biggest market for New Zealand wool, accounting for almost 40% of export receipts.
In 2022-23 export prices lifted 2%, while volumes fell 10% from their levels a year ago. In 2023-24, a weak global economic outlook was likely to lead to lower prices with wool revenues forecast to soften by 2%.
Ms Crosbie, who grew up in rural North Canterbury and now lives in the Tasman district, brought "a wealth of experience" working on sector development and innovation across the primary industries, Mr Caughey said.
She helped business and organisations to develop ideas into investable propositions and to nurture innovation through the pre-revenue stages of product development. Her knowledge spanned industry, government, iwi, consumer and community perspectives.
She had worked across a range of funding systems, including New Zealand government funds, European Union and United Nations funds, and international philanthropic funds.
Prior to establishing her own business, Lodestone, her experience comprised diverse roles including 15 years in the United Kingdom. She has a master’s degree in urban design from Oxford Brookes University.
She was passionate about both the fibre itself and also about not losing the supply chain of wool, Ms Crosbie said. For those in her generation — she is in her mid-50s — wool was such an integral part of who they were, and also of rural communities.
Those who had grown up with wool knew about its credentials but there was also a re-acknowledgement happening globally around the natural attributes of wool, and that was something that excited her, she said.
In terms of securing the supply chain, that was going to happen one farm at a time. She was under no illusion that transformation was going to be easy, and not take some time. She was looking forward to seeing what ideas came through in the next six months.
Often people just needed to know where to start and the navigator position was also about trying to lessen the duplication of people "jumping over the same hurdles".