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Thought leaders attend #HamTech16
Last week, NZTech board member and SparkTank’s Rachel Kelly, in association with PwC hosted NZTech in Hamilton for a conversation with 30 local thought leaders. NZTech CEO Graeme Muller presented the national and regional findings of Digital Nation New Zealand, From Tech Sector to Digital Nation. The research shows that the tech sector is a large contributor to the New Zealand economy – creating many jobs, GDP and exports. The Hamilton tech sector proudly boasts $1 billion of GDP, 6% of the local economy, nearly $500m in exports and employs just under 7,000 in tech.
A panel discussion then explored what the future holds for Hamilton as a rapidly growing city, how the city can better exploit technology and how to harness opportunities in the region. John Macaskill-Smith (CEO, Pinnacle Midlands Health Network), Kelvyn Eglington (GM City Growth, Hamilton City Council) and Rob Heebink (R&D Executive, Gallagher) joined the #HamTech16 panel discussion.
One of the biggest hurdles to growth identified at the #HamTech16 event was effective communication within Hamilton/Waikato as well as nationally. The panel discussed that local tech companies tend to be siloed without a centralised forum to collaborate. As a result, wins within the Hamilton/Waikato tech sector aren’t necessarily well promoted or openly celebrated. Subsequently, tech graduates don’t have a clear understanding of tech company opportunity in the Waikato, and either move away from the area or dismiss the region when looking for jobs. The tech silo effect also means local tech SMEs are missing opportunity to co-create or collaborate on national tenders.
The panel prompted a discussion that larger companies have been successful by keeping to themselves and working hard. Since they are focused on the growth of their own business there is a perception that they may not want or need to collaborate with other local companies or contribute at tech events. Overall, it was agreed that the local tech sector is quite fragmented and previous attempts to defragment through local government efforts have been unsuccessful.
The panel also discussed the importance of community and business-driven tech initiatives, in opposition to relying on local government. Whilst the region is collectively ‘doing ok’ already growing at approximately 3%, this can also be seen as a hurdle with no real impetus to change. It was agreed that a new Hamilton/Waikato Technology Initiative, soon to be announced, should improve local communications and national interest with strong prospects for growth.
“Technology is simply a tool to create value and solve big problems. As a region, the Waikato has a unique history with exposure across multiple industries. There are a lot of smart people in this area asking hard questions and tackling big issues. We wish to nurture this growing community of innovators creating technology-driven solutions that have great commercial promise on the world stage, ” commented Rachel Kelly.