Stimulating innovation is a key driver for sponsor

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Greg Simmonds, Strategic Projects Manager, tells why Priority One is delighted to be involved in this year’s Tauranga Startup Weekend.


“As the economic development organisation for the sub-region, our aim is to lift the economy to one that requires high levels of skill and well paid jobs.  To this end we have a strong focus in supporting the development of the region’s innovation eco-system create an entrepreneurial culture to add value to the primary product base.  Innovation is the key that will transform the sub-region into a high productivity economy that is globally competitive within its market niches.

Tauranga Startup Weekend is an important part of the Bay’s developing entrepreneurial eco-system, providing aspiring entrepreneurs the opportunity to hone their ideas, develop networks and be mentored by those that have succeeded in walking the path before them.  Our strong history of collaboration means those attending will be surrounded by people with the skills and experience to help them test their ideas and learn what is needed to turn them into successful businesses.

Over the last few years we have seen a significant increase in entrepreneurial activity locally and we have a lot to be proud of.  This is putting us on the map nationally and internationally as a place where innovation is happening, which in turn means that other businesses also want to be based here.

Some of the recent successes include the provision of $30 million in regional funding and the gift of land for the development of a tertiary and research campus in Tauranga’s city centre;  the trebling in size of the Coastal Marine Field Station, which positions the region as a major centre for research in pharmaceuticals and agrichemicals;  and considerable growth in the District Health Board’s Clinical School, which undertakes pharmaceutical trials and health-related research projects nationally and internationally.

Recently there have been three significant triumphs that will significantly accelerate the growth of innovation in the Bay.  WNT Ventures, a collaboration of high-tech businesses comprising Wharf42, Newnham Horticultural Innovation Park and TiDA, successfully tendered to become one of three new technology incubators for high-growth, early-stage firms.  This has the potential to attract more than $7 million in start-up funding over the next three years.  Another consortium, also including TiDA and Waikato University, secured $12.6 million to develop a titanium research platform to create a multi-company, multi-sector manufacturing base for high value exports.  Lastly, Robotics Plus, University of Auckland, University of Waikato and Plant & Food Research have secured $7.6m for a robotics research project for the primary industries.

Some of the initiatives that Priority One is directly involved in to stimulate innovation and encourage entrepreneurship include:  the annual Young Innovator Awards, which have been designed to create a culture of innovation in young people through the application of creative problem solving and critical thinking;  the local ICT Cluster, which comprises over 600 IT professionals from around 240 companies;  and providing support to the Enterprise Angels ‘Plenty of Innovation’ market validation programme, which enables those with a business idea to get market validation before investing time and money into a product or service.

In 2012 Priority One established Ignition – Tauranga’s first co-working space designed to foster innovation and entrepreneurship.  The initiative supports early stage entrepreneurs and promotes commercialisation by providing office infrastructure to those that are self-employed or from out of town in an environment that encourages networking, collaboration and innovation.  From an initial space that housed 18 co-workers, Ignition has expanded to now comprise over 40 members.  It’s supported by University of Waikato, Tauranga City Council, Zariba Holdings, Carrus Corporation and Plus Group Horticulture.  In addition to enabling further growth of the entrepreneurial ecosystem, Ignition also provides a landing pad for new businesses to the city. “