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University of Auckland opens new innovation hub


University of Auckland opens new innovation and entrepreneurship hub to foster new ventures

The University of Auckland today launches the Unleash Space, a new innovation and entrepreneurship hub to grow ideas into ventures.

The student-led hub is managed by the University’s Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, based at the Business School, and will support students through all stages of the innovation and entrepreneurship life cycle, from idea generation and prototyping to product commercialisation.

Centre Director Wendy Kerr says the space is unique internationally. It comprises a state-of-the-art maker-space as well as areas for workshops, collaboration and other support.

“Students can design and create anything they can imagine. If they choose to, they can use their prototype to see if they could start a business with their idea,” she says.

“We have wrap-around support and leading edge equipment, and we also have experiential programmes and events that can help them grow their idea to a successful venture.”

The University raised $9.6 million in sponsorship to establish the space. The founding donors are Sir Owen G Glenn KNZM ONZM HonLLD, Beca, Chau Hoi Shuen Foundation, Hynds Foundation, Li Ka-Shing (Canada) Foundation and PwC.

The University of Auckland is already recognised as a world leader in fostering entrepreneurship. In 2014, a global study by MIT identified the University as one of the top five emerging leaders in innovation internationally. The new hub reflects its commitment to developing business-savvy, entrepreneurially-minded graduates to ensure New Zealand’s longer-term economic prosperity.

The hub is located in the former Engineering School library at the heart of the University’s central Auckland campus and is open to students and staff from any faculty and any discipline.

Ahead of the official launch, nearly 600 students have signed up as members and been trained on the maker-space equipment, which includes 3D printers, laser cutters, electronics equipment, sewing machines and other tools.

Dean of Business Professor Jayne Godfrey says the Unleash Space will help prepare current students for the future world of work.

“As the future of work is changing rapidly, we need to equip our students for this new world. This is the place students can safely experience failure and learn from each other. This space is unique in the University as it brings people together from diverse backgrounds and academic disciplines. They will learn together and from each other,” she says.

“Innovative ideas need entrepreneurial spirit to take them to fruition and put them into practice.”
Dean of Engineering Professor Nic Smith says the idea grew from similar spaces overseas and a conversation with his former counterpart at the University’s Business School.

“The name of this space is emblematic of the transition and support students need – that sense of unleashing the creativity they already have,” he says.

“When I was a student, making anything was very expensive and took enormous amounts of time,” he says. “That can really affect people’s capacity to take risks, learn from mistakes and to do things that are genuinely outside the box.

“In the Unleash Space, staff and students are free to do all kinds of things – things we probably haven’t even thought of.”

Local businesses will be involved in the hub’s programmes and events to ensure they are pragmatic and impactful. The hub has already hosted a corporate innovation challenge where 120 students solved gnarly problems posed by local corporates, and “Summer Lab”, an ideas accelerator for budding entrepreneurs.

In the coming year, the Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship will offer more than 150 workshops, seminars and events to more than 2,000 students at the Unleash Space. These are designed to build innovative and entrepreneurial mindsets and capabilities enabling graduates to thrive in their careers, whether they choose to work in a large corporate, join a start-up or begin their own business.

The Unleash Space:
The Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship:
The University of Auckland Business School:


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