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Research project scopes out North Shore innovation district

Friday September 11, 2015

Research project scopes out North Shore innovation district

Massey University’s new entrepreneurship researcher Dr Rebecca Gill has a vision for an innovation district in Auckland’s north. And she is not alone.

At a Grow North symposium held at the university at the start of this year, around 100 business, academic and government leaders expressed their interest in fostering an innovation district in the region.

To get the ball rolling Massey is currently researching the opportunities and challenges to developing an innovation district, with the aim of recommending “next steps” to move the concept forward.

Massey University Vice-Chancellor Steve Maharey says the university’s Auckland campus sits within one of the country’s fastest growing regions and the campus plans to be a central feature of its smart, well-educated community.

“We are an open and collaborative university with big development plans, including the recently-announced science and innovation research centre,” he says. “The North Shore of Auckland already has a reputation for innovation, so we are keen to foster that by supplying ideas, expertise and talent to our community.

“If an innovation district develops here, Massey wants to play the sort of role Stanford does in Silicon Valley – and this research project will help us decide how we can best contribute to the district’s success.”

The project is supported by Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (ATEED), on behalf of Auckland Council.

Brett O’Riley, ATEED chief executive, says: “Auckland’s economic development strategy outlines the goal of Auckland becoming an innovation hub of the Asia-Pacific region.

“ATEED welcomes this research, which will help inform the actions that we take at a regional level to deliver on this goal.”

Dr Gill, the project’s lead researcher, will conduct a literature review, focus groups and stakeholder interviews, before producing a report outlining recommendations for developing an innovation district in Auckland’s north.

Dr Gill has previously researched regions seeking to replicate the Silicon Valley model and says the best ones are a “mash up of diverse sectors” where organisations are open with their communication and collaboration.

“All this needs to happen in a compact area, but it’s not just being close in proximity but also close in networks,” she says. “The right infrastructure and a strong brand attracts companies and gives people a reason to live in the area so it’s about building quality of life as well as economic development.”

She says the North Shore already has “many of the pre-requisites for an innovation district, including universities, good start-up companies and incubators, as well as supportive local government”.

“But what’s really important is there’s a mindset and culture for innovation here,” she says. “A lot of organisations are making strides in their own individual companies, but we need to bring all this activity together. I think people are waiting for it, they just need someone to say, ‘We’ve figured out what a plan could be, now we want a lot more input and collaboration.’”

The Grow North: Innovation District research project is being funded Massey University and ATEED on behalf of Auckland Council. The research report, including findings and recommendations, will be presented at the second Grow North event, to be held at Massey University’s Auckland campus on November 30.


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