Techweek AKL 2016, formally launched this week by ATEED in partnership with Callaghan Innovation and the New Zealand Technology Industry Association, is a weeklong showcase, celebration and capacity-building festival, that brings together a cluster of pre-existing events along with new additions including international and local keynote speakers, industry meetups, skills-sharing and networking opportunities, all aiming to showcasing Auckland’s tech sector, building skills within the tech community, and offer interested outsiders a glimpse inside.
Patrick McVeigh, ATEED’s general manager of business, innovation and skills, says that the technology and innovation sector is thriving in Auckland, and hopes Techweek AKL 2016 will help facilitate its further growth by showcasing the sector and engaging the tech community.
McVeigh says Auckland’s tech sector generates $6.9 billion of Auckland’s GDP (9.1%), and makes up 47% of the New Zealand tech sector, employing nearly 50,000 people. He says this success is the result of enormous growth over the last five or so years: 26% growth between 2009 and 2014, a compound annual growth rate of about 5.1% compared to an Auckland general growth rate of 4%. “We think there's an opportunity to build on that momentum,” he says, “to shine a light on that broad tech sector and everything that's happening in Auckland”.
Rather than build an event from scratch, or licensing an pre-existing international event, ATEED built Techweek AKL 2016 by wrapping a festival around pre-existing activity in the sector, adding complementary events and speakers.
“We're conscious that there's a lot of activity already underway – there's Startup Weekend, Innovation Heroes, the Hi-Tech Awards – so we thought, where do we start if we want to start making more noise and bringing that community together and really promoting the ecosystem?” says McVeigh. "It's about trying to get maximum impact of all these things happening over a condensed period of time and using it as a platform to tell some of these stories about what Auckland’s innovation economy looks like and the range of opportunities here, and trying to add value to all of those other partners that are running activities as well, to raise the conversation about the sector and demonstrate all those things that are happening.”
Techweek AKL 2016 consists of over 35 events throughout the week, many of which are based at GridAKL, Auckland’s innovation precinct in Wynyard Quarter, starting with Startup Weekend, a three day event where participants form teams to develop a start-up from scratch in a single weekend. It’s as good an entry as you’re going to get into the tech world. (If you’re not quite ready to dive right in, Tech for Non-Tech might be more your speed.) Other events include the launch of the winning idea from the Maori innovation challenge (DigMyIdea), a workshop for primary and intermediate aged kids (OMGTech!), meetups on various topics and sub sectors, interactive events, and talks from experts across the field. McVeigh says that the "diversity of activity that shows the diversity of the sector and the depth of the ecosystem."
While Techweek AKL 2016 caters primary for a local audience, Auckland is hosting the Tripartite Economic Summit with delegations travelling from Los Angeles and Guangzhou, which is also happening during that week. Says McVeigh: “One of the things we identified as part of the Auckland Innovation Plan, and what we think of as our role, is helping to showcase and project globally what Auckland's economy is and why it's a good place to invest, a good place to grow a business, and a good place to live and work – so that showcase role adds value to telling Auckland's story.”
“What we know about innovation, innovation ecosystems, and growing an economy, is it's a long term proposition. It's about engaging both your community and attracting talent, attracting businesses, attracting investment, getting people to look at Auckland, and New Zealand, as a location that they want to either be in, put their business in, invest in, or stay in, if you're a young, talented worker. You can't do that stuff overnight: you need to take a long term view and build capacity, and Techweek AKL 2016 will help do this.”