David Porter, Business Editor of the Bay of Plenty Times, wrote up an interesting piece in Saturday’s paper. He talked about how a new regional research institute in the Bay would build on existing initiatives taking place in the region.

The background to the piece goes back to the Government’s 2015 Budget. The Government then announced that up to three new research institutes would be established over the next four to five years in areas outside Auckland, Wellington & Christchurch. The Bay of Plenty’s application process is being driven by Shane Stuart, Priority One’s new Innovation Manager. By chance, I caught up with Shane at Tauranga’s Startup Weekend event at Basestation on Saturday. The region needs to submit an Expression of Interest by 11 December. A more detailed submission is required by 17 February next year.

Managing complex New Zealand-wide sourced IP from the Bay of Plenty

The Bay of Plenty: Home to a high value New Zealand innovation ecosystem

The Bay of Plenty Times piece talked about how the collaborative template that the founders of WNT Ventures created, might be used again.

There is real substance to this. The focus of the new institutes, from the Government’s perspective, is that they will have to be privately led and sustainably funded by business in the long term.  WNT Venture’s template not only includes the three original founding Bay of Plenty-based innovation hubs, but also two of the region’s key investment players, Quayside Holdings and Enterprise Angels. With Priority One, the region’s Economic Development Agency, also recently becoming a shareholder in WNT, all the ingredients are in place for a significant sustainable long-term economic development opportunity for the Bay.

If we look at the Government’s timetable, a Regional Research Institute based in the Bay of Plenty, would make even more sense. By then, WNT Ventures and its key stakeholders will have had several years’ invaluable experience of building new tech businesses from complex research and IP. It would also map the opening of the new University campus in Tauranga’s CBD. And then there is the new ICT Graduate School – an initiative between the Universities of Auckland & Waikato. There is no lack of opportunity.

As a region, the Bay of Plenty is growing rapidly. The Bay experienced the highest growth in economic activity of any region in New Zealand in the year to March 2015 at 4.8%, outstripping both Auckland and Christchurch. The kiwifruit industry is back to full production post-PSA and evidence of new transformational innovation initiatives are springing up everywhere. Think Venture Centre, the House of Science, Basestation, Ignition and other emerging co-working spaces. Then add in initiatives such as StartupWeekend, TedX and Code Club Aotearoa. The place is rocking.

At Wharf42, we look forward to supporting the Bay of Plenty’s Regional Research Institute Bid. It certainly maps the work we are doing at WNT Ventures and would reflect the potential that the Bay of Plenty offers as a new driver of the New Zealand economy. From where I sit, this is an opportunity we should not miss.