Rise of the phoenix: Canterbury software sector flies

Rise of the phoenix: Canterbury software sector flies
The annual Canterbury Software Summit is returning to Christchurch next month with a focus on Canterbury’s post-earthquake tech sector growth.

The largest technology event in the South Island will be held on October 2 at the Air Force Museum in Wigram, a bigger venue than previous years due to the high turnout.

There are 230 already registered for the “full throttle” themed event, which has sold out the past two previous years.

Event manager Shelley Grell says 10 years ago, only 30 or so people would turn up to the summit.

“It was very much a low key event, nothing like what it is today. The momentum is huge – it’s taking on its own life. Those registered exceeded 500 last year,” she says.

The conference features prominent figures in the technology industry as keynote speakers, including Quid co-founder Sean Gourley, Microsoft DirectX media platform creator Alex St John and current CTO and founder of Telogis Ralph Mason.

Topics to be covered at the conference include security, tackling the IT shortage and staying innovative and agile through fast growth to parallel processing.

Chair of the Canterbury Software Cluster Geoff Brash says the chosen ‘Full Throttle’ theme is a reflection of the progress made in Canterbury’s thriving technology sector this year.

“Canterbury is a great place for hi-tech – whether you’re just starting up or already going full throttle,” he says.

“ICT strategies have featured prominently in the election campaigns of all parties, plus the Government has made some big commitments to support Christchurch’s new Innovation Precinct.”

The event comes at a crucial time in Christchurch’s rebuild, as the Government’s vision for the city is an innovative place for creativity, exports and productivity.

The earthquakes were hugely disruptive to businesses, but they had a positive effect in bringing companies closer together and teaching them to collaborate and adapt to changing circumstances, Grell says.

Christchurch Central Development is building the innovation precinct covering three blocks beside the High Street Gateway to bring talented people in the technology industry together.

The precinct will host businesses in high-value technology sectors. Anchor tenants include Vodafone New Zealand, whose South Island headquarters will open there next year. There will also be a postgraduate computer school.

The recovery is a work in progress, Grell says, but Canterbury is seen as a national hub for those in the technology sector and the Software Summit event brings companies together.

The Innovation Precinct website refers to a growing talent pool in the Canterbury region, and Grell says the local tech industry provides the opportunity to live in the South Island while furthering a career internationally –an appealing prospect to many.

“Businesses are very happy to keep the research and development arm in Christchurch because there’s an established pool of developers and engineers here. There’s no sense in shipping them elsewhere as they can still get on a plane and visit companies around the rest of the world. It’s a good spot.”

She hopes the event will attract 500 registrations.