Central Otago innovation hub to be scoped

Dr Greg Bodeker, of Bodeker Scientific in Alexandra, Central Otago.

Dr Greg Bodeker, of Bodeker Scientific in Alexandra, Central Otago.

An Alexandra-based scientist behind New Zealand's first space science technology centre is behind a pitch to develop a tech-innovation hub in Central Otago.

The Central Otago District Council supported a pitch from the business community to provide $8000 to facilitate a community workshop to discuss a vision for an innovation hub in the region at its meeting on Wednesday.

The hub proposal has been developed with input from Greg Bodeker, of Bodeker Scientific, Richard Tyree, Farm Solutions and Tara Druce, Druce Consulting and there have been exploratory discussions with the Otago Polytechnic about how its redeveloped Cromwell Campus might support an innovation hub in the district.

A number of Crown Research Institutes have facilities in the district and Alexandra is also home to the new Centre for Space Science Technology (CSST), the second institution to receive funding under the Government's Regional Research Institute programme.

Bodeker, the brains behind the centre, told councillors a community workshop was crucial to establishing a clear vision for the hub.

"Otherwise people don't know what to line up behind. The same model was used to establish the CSST. We were very clear what the vision was and we got a lot of buy in from people....There is not culture right now, no support, but there is no innovation hub to support that. Demand is dangerously close to zero, but that is because there is no opportunity."

An innovation hub would attract young people with start-up business ideas seeking support, he said.

"There is not much opportunity for young professionals...[innovation hubs] attract young people because they have the freedom to get involved. They are prepared to work 100 hours a week if they think they will be a millionaire in five years time."

Central Otago District Council Economic Development manager Warwick Hawker said innovation was driving major changes in the world economy and Central Otago should be part of the process.

"Frankly, if we are not we will fall behind, our key industries will fall behind and society will not have the opportunity to participate in exciting new things happening around the world."

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Mayor Tim Cadogan said for $8000 the concept was "absolutely superb" to be involved with. 

"I am absolutely behind it."

In the report to council, a broad vision for the hub was outlined which included:

  • A physical space where entrepreneurs can be co-located with other innovative industries to drive links and synergies between projects and people;
  • Entrepreneurs and innovators have the opportunity to access capital to drive innovative projects;
  • The hub attracts entrepreneurs to live and work in Central Otago;
  • Youth opt to stay in Central Otago and work in innovative industries;
  • Innovation acts as a driver for upskilling the workforce;
  • Skilled people in communities can use and develop their business, technical knowledge and skills;
  • A hub is able to make use of the fast-internet roll out to accessultra-fast broadband;
  • A hub helps drive Central Otago's digital future;
  • Innovation is supported and celebrated in the community.

It is envisaged if the hub project proceeds, it should be self-sustaining with no funding required from council.

 - Stuff


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