Tech firms to drink from the golden cup

Hi-tech forum organised by NZICT

Kiwi technology firms will have their own chance to star and win on a global stage during next year's Rugby World Cup.

Industry group NZICT is organising a hi-tech forum that will coincide with the tournament and match local firms with potential international investors, distributors and customers.

Chief executive Brett O'Riley says NZICT is still finalising the details but plans to hold the Rutherford Hi-Tech Forum in Christchurch next September in partnership with government agencies, regional groups and other industry associations.

Firms wanting to attend could sit down with organisers and identify who they want to showcase their technology and business to.

"We certainly would be targeting investors but it will be up to the individual company. For example, company X says, `I'm looking for a distribution partner in the Japanese market'. In that case we might work with Trade and Enterprise and identify some partners in Japan or we could work through our own network of NZICT members."

Companies taking part will attend "training camps" in the year leading up to the forum to make them match-ready for the big event, he says.

"If you were targeting investment and capital we'll run a series of bootcamps and use existing programmes that are out there that ensure you've got an information memorandum and an `elevator pitch' ... and away you'll go."

Funding for the forum is still to be finalised, and NZICT will try to keep costs down to encourage participation, Mr O'Riley says.

"It's really using the fact that we know New Zealand is going to be a pretty interesting and vibrant place during the Rugby World Cup and it's an opportunity to showcase the country.

"The Government has thrown down the challenge and the opportunity around the Rugby World Cup to a number of industries and it's about us picking up the challenge on behalf of the industry."

Rugby World Cup business engagement manager Alex Matheson says 85,000 international visitors are expected to be in New Zealand for the tournament and a substantial number of those will be business-people.

"[Many] are coming over for a few weeks from Europe. We're already getting a lot of people knocking on our doors saying, `We want to do more than just tourism and rugby, are there any things in business that we can do?' We want to find out which sectors they're coming from so we can help target those people and put them in touch with the right Kiwi businesses."

Al Monro, former chief executive of touchscreen technology firm NextWindow – bought out this year by Canadian company Smart Technologies – says any initiative that helps local firms understand what international investors are looking for would be of value.

NextWindow was forced to seek international investment after failing to attract local investors, who often do not understand the hi-tech industry and how it works, he says.

Mr O'Riley says Christchurch will be the hub of the forum because of its accommodation and venue options but that does not preclude other centres such as Wellington and Auckland hosting related events.

Kiwi tech firms are not short on innovation but can struggle to commercialise their intellectual property, he says.

"We think this could become an annual event. [We want] to deliver very key messages about New Zealand being open for business, what's available in New Zealand in terms of ... research, science and technology grants and the ultrafast broadband scheme, as well as what's available in New Zealand in terms of innovation."

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