The EPIC (Enterprise Precinct and Innovation Campus) is in Christchurch, and was developed after the earthquakes claimed the work and home spaces of many residents. Wil McLellan and Colin Andersen came up with the concept of a collaborative working environment when makeshift offices shared with other companies enabled them to see the benefits of combining working spaces with a variety of companies.
“We co-located with some other people out of simple necessity,” explains McLellan. “It was a case of innovation out of desperation. We started to see the benefits, not just in cost savings and efficiencies of space, but the fact that it was really nice the way people started to get to know other companies.”
The EPIC building is now home to around 300 people and 30 companies. Over 80% of the tenants have a heavy export focus for their business operations. The vision is to connect high-tech entrepreneurs with each other and their counterparts around the world. “It’s an ecosystem where people can share lessons learned, and it’s an exciting and dynamic place,” says McLellan.
Image: An open space in side the EPIC Innovation centre, an innovative shared services space that focusses on technology and collaboration in Christchurch.
Visits from international guests such as Google, The World Bank, Silicon Valley Investors, the US and Japanese embassies and the UK Prime Minister’s office engage the workers. Nearly 300 public events have been held there since it opened in 2012. The interactive format of EPIC is unique, says McLellan, as in a lot of hubs and technology parks the companies don’t collaborate – they are more like neighbours.
“There have been a lot of initiatives and projects formed by companies that prior to coming into EPIC did not know each other. Partnerships are driving business, with some fantastic and quantifiable results.”
One example is the collaboration between two video gaming companies, a wheelchair designer and a spinal recovery unit, which has resulted in a ‘Virtual Reality Wheelchair Trainer’, a feat not possible if each company had not met through the EPIC centre.
“I think it’s something to do with proximity. Humans are living creatures, we’re not pieces of software, so if you co-locate the right kind of people together, things happen,” says McLellan.