Hub has Epic potential - visiting engineer

Last updated 05:00 03/08/2011

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Christchurch Earthquake 2011

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A planned information technology hub in central Christchurch could become a "destination" for industry professionals visiting New Zealand, a Google engineer says.

Google engineering director Craig Nevill-Manning was in Christchurch yesterday to meet a group of earthquake-displaced IT businesses planning to set up a collaborative hub in the central city.

The group, Enterprise Precinct and Innovation Campus (Epic), said the project would add vibrancy to the inner city and stimulate growth during the recovery process.

Nevill-Manning, who graduated with a Bachelor of Science from Canterbury University in 1989, said he and Google engineers from its crisis-response division came to the city after the February quake to provide technological support and equipment to officials and businesses.

He met Stickmen Studios chief executive and Epic co-leader Wil McLellan while in the city, and McLellan contacted him when the group had finalised its concept.

Nevill-Manning said he supported the idea of a hub, which would boost collaboration between companies and could become a "destination" for IT experts visiting the city.

"If you're visiting New Zealand and you're a tech entrepreneur, you'll want to hang out at the hub and meet a bunch of interesting people working on interesting projects."

Nevill-Manning founded Google's New York software engineering centre and said there were similarities between Epic's plans and successful technology centres around the world.

"Why is Silicon Valley so successful? It's because all the graduates are in one place and they can bump into each other at cafes and talk about their ideas."

He said Google would provide advice to the group on the design and function of the site, based on Google's experience with its centres.

"You have to think about how people will interact, where they'll bump into each other, the fun little touches. We've got a ladder from one floor to another, and people use it because it's quicker than the stairs."

Nevill-Manning has visited the city several times since the February quake. "It is a terrible tragedy, but you can start to see the green shoots coming up around the place."

He had "strong connections" with the city and New Zealand, and was likely to make visits to help Epic develop the permanent hub.

"I honestly think that in a few years, the formation of a great product or a great company will have come out of the hub," he said.

Epic was granted rent-free use of a Christchurch City Council-owned site last week to set up a temporary hub while it looked for a permanent location.

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The temporary hub will house more than 440 employees, while over 700 people are likely to work at the permanent site.

- The Press


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