New Zealand's top technology players to be recognised at Hi-Tech Awards in Christchurch

Aotearoa's top players in the tech world will be awarded on Friday night at the Hi-tech Awards in Christchurch.

It's a rapidly-growing industry here and is now our second-biggest exporter after dairy.

At the forefront of global space travel innovation, from the humble Glentanner runway in the South Island near Mt Cook, Christchurch-based company Dawn Aerospace operates remotely-piloted rocket-powered spaceplanes.

"We observed there were many aspects of space transportation that could be done a lot better, could be done more scaleable and sustainably," said Dawn Aerospace co-founder James Powell.

The company is revolutionising space access, bringing aircraft-like machinery to the rocket world, using runways instead of a traditional rocket launch pad.

While 100 percent of its customers are offshore, it's founded by Kiwis with the majority of its global staff based in Christchurch.

"There's very few even attempting things like [this] and we're on track to be the most popular in our class by the end of the year so we're really making good progress with this," Powell told Newshub. 

Dawn Aerospace is a good example of the burgeoning highly-skilled tech sector developing in Aotearoa, a sector that now employs 62,000 people across the motu. 

Aotearoa's growing technology industry is now the country's second-biggest exporter, worth $11 billion in exports annually, and a good portion of the industry will be at the awards on Friday, with over 1000 people expected at Te Pae, the biggest event there held to date.

The awards have now been running for 27 years, showcasing the transformation.

"Twenty-seven years ago, it was a dozen people standing around in a shed, sort of going 'I think we can do it, I think we can build something out of the technology industry', and now we find ourselves here, an industry that's worth $15 billion a year," said Hi-Tech Trust chair David Downs. 

It's the old cliche of Kiwi's number eight wire attitude and big brains coupled with global reach and investment.

"We've got businesses in New Zealand who have 25 million users in the States, medical equipment never been done in any part of the world," Downs told Newshub. 

Dawn Aerospace is among the many finalists taking Hi-Tech to new heights.