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Auckland North gears up to become world-class innovation hub

25 May 2016

Auckland North has announced it is committed to becoming a world-class innovation hub for New Zealand and beyond.

The announcement took place last night at Massey University’s Albany campus, where it was also announced that the next phase of the ‘Grow North’ initiative will be funded by Massey University, Auckland Events and Economic Development (ATEED) and Bank of New Zealand (BNZ).

Massey University vice-chancellor Steve Maharey challenged the audience of business, education and local government leaders to help take the Grow North idea to the next stage.

“We are looking to business to kick-start this project but can’t just rely on business to do everything,” he said.

“Because business wants great education, they want great infrastructure, great roads. And vice versa, schools want businesses where kids are inspired to go out and join them or start their own enterprise,” said Maharey.

He went on to describe his vision for the role the University will play in the Auckland North innovation district.

“We have a fully developed campus plan that is very focused on being the Stanford of the South Pacific. We want to be that style of university, very engaged, very connected with our community,” he said.

Head of the Massey Business School and deputy vice-chancellor professor, Ted Zorn, then presented the project’s action plan to bring a smart innovation district to life.

“After conducting a major research project into the feasibility of an innovation district in this region, we have identified the next steps for making it a reality. With the seed funding from Massey, ATEED and BNZ we can now start work on key projects and appoint a director to drive those initiatives forward,” Zorn said.

Priorities include appointing a director and a steering group to guide the project; creating an open database and map of innovative companies and innovation resources; connecting with emerging innovation hubs around Auckland; and building skills and exchanges between innovators and the education sector.

“Expanding the Grow North research project to include the views of a broader cross-section of the local community is part of the action plan,” Zorn said.

“It’s also important that we can measure our success, so establishing baseline data for key indicators like the number of startups, patents and export dollars generated in the region each year will also be a priority,” he said.

The research report recommendations were discussed in breakout sessions to allow feedback from the Auckland North community.

Grant Straker from tech translation firm Straker Translations called for the introduction of computational learning in primary schools and a lifting of teaching capability in this area. Others discussed the need for a brand that the whole community can identify with and an inspirational leader for the project who is given leeway to innovate.

Grow North’s local government and business partners both expressed confidence the project would bring economic benefits to the Auckland North region.

Brett O’Riley, ATEED chief executive, predicted Auckland would become home to more than 50% of New Zealand’s technology companies within the next 18-24 months. He also promoted the concept of a “polycentric city”.

“We don’t want people to go across the harbour bridge every day. We want people to be able to live, play and work in their communities. That is the only way we will be able to sustain this amazing lifestyle that we have and continue to grow.

“In the future I want people to feel this is a region they can live and work in their whole lives because it is so rich in opportunity that they don’t want to leave,” O’Riley says.

BNZ’s partners chairman for the North Shore Gary Monk said the bank is committed to supporting the Grow North project’s vision to foster innovative companies to grow the country’s wealth and wellbeing.

“With a small, open economy in a great position to take advantage of the Asia-Pacific century, innovative companies are essential to capturing the huge opportunities we have to showcase New Zealand’s capabilities to the world, so we are delighted to sponsor this exciting initiative,” he said.

At the event’s conclusion the project partners asked the audience to indicate their willingness to roll up their sleeves and help. The aim is to have a Grow North director and an advisory group appointed within the next month.

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