'Techweek' to inspire young innovative Kiwis

Massey University's entrepreneurship researcher Rebecca Gill (Supplied)
Massey University's entrepreneurship researcher Rebecca Gill (Supplied)

Hundreds of budding entrepreneurs and experts have come to Auckland for the first ever 'Techweek'.

Workshops, conferences, fast paced pitches all part of the agenda with the aim of promoting Auckland as an innovation hub in Asia Pacific.

But the word 'innovation' is thrown around so much, Newshub's Simon Shepherd asked for some help from Massey University's entrepreneurship researcher Rebecca Gill.

What does innovation really mean?

Innovation is starting to feel like an overused buzzword, but I think the term still has some merit.

Much of the "buzzword" factor of the term is due to the increased speed and growth of innovation in the commercial and technological space. So yes, it might be overused, but if genuinely new ideas are being implemented, then that's innovation.

Creating the conditions for fostering innovation has become both an urban planning trend and an internal focus of individual organisations. The most successful results seem to come when there is a mash-up of diverse sectors or people, and everyone is open with their communication and collaboration.

Is innovation always related to technology?

Absolutely not, although the two concepts are often linked. The reason for this is because there's so much excitement around innovation that can "pivot" and be scaled quickly, and this happens in the area of high-technology.

There's also the Silicon Valley factor, which has captured imaginations across the globe. But innovation can happen in any sector. It can be a new process, a brilliant marketing decision, a social movement.

Why are so many cities trying to create innovation districts?

We are living in an interconnected, networked world and cities and countries are thinking more strategically about growth, prosperity and quality of life. Cities are keen to attract the economic and place-building benefits of innovation that have been demonstrated in other spaces, like Waterloo in Canada, Barcelona and Boston. Innovation initiatives can create jobs, build talent and develop collectives that solve pressing community and economic problems. It's about developing lifestyles, economies, and spaces that cater to this.

Cities often see innovation districts as a model to stimulate economic growth, but it's also about creating liveable cities with good transport, vibrant culture, a strong education system and the ability to "work smarter".

Does New Zealand have what it takes?

The problem is that all this activity is too fragmented or isolated. What New Zealand needs is to develop trust amongst members of the ecosystem and a spirit of cooperation.

To foster innovation you need dynamic links between people and resources, incentives to scale businesses, a global mindset and stronger investment circles.

What does innovation mean for individual firms?

Businesses can increase their own innovation and contribute to the New Zealand ecosystem by examining their networks and partners. They need to think globally, which is a message we are getting from all parts of Government. Businesses shouldn't be afraid to sometimes partner with a competitor in the spirit of "co-opetition" and they should roll up their sleeves and get involved, where they can, outside of their ventures.

The cross-pollination of ideas can be very powerful and working with local boards, schools, or new start-ups can go a long way in developing an innovative mindset and influencing the next generation of entrepreneurs.

Is innovation only about business success?

Innovation that only involves or benefits business may work for a while, but it will ultimately fall prey to the pitfalls of a closed system that is not sharing ideas, energy, and other resources from the surrounding environment.

Innovation districts that include the whole community have the potential to address social issues in new and interesting ways.

One of the critiques of Silicon Valley for instance, is that it is actually quite homogenous. Women, people of colour and immigrants are often disadvantaged when it comes to their working conditions.

There is a growing wage gap and an invisible homeless population. This is despite research telling us diversity leads to the generation of more creative ideas both for business and society.


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