Waikato Innovation centre 15 years in the making

The Waikato Innovation Park will open for business early next month after nearly 15 years of haggling over its development.

The Waikato Innovation Park will open for business early next month after nearly 15 years of haggling over its development.

The idea for an incubator/business development unit for the area was first mooted around 15 years ago, says chief executive Derek Fairweather.

"Originally it was an idea with AgResearch, then got passed to the university, then to the Waikato Technology Foundation and then with the Tainui settlement it stalled for five or six years and finally we got out of the starting blocks in 2002."

The formation of a not-for-profit organisation was catalyst for the latest development which will see the new centre open for business on December 19. An official opening is planned for the new year.

The park will focus on agri-business and biotechnology, but has a strong contingent of ICT companies ready to move in.

"It's not something we were expecting but there you go. Obviously we've got a strong agricultural background here and being based at Ruakura is a great boon for us."

Ruakura research facility is world-renowned for its agri-business focus. Locally, Ruakura is probably most famous for measuring the amount of methane gas emitted by livestock.

The centre will use income from its commercial clients to fund its incubator programme, something that Fairweather hopes will provide for long-term sustainability.

"We don't have to go cap-in-hand looking for funding or coming up with strange and unique research programmes to ensure we have money next year. We can focus on raising funds for our incubator clients rather than for ourselves."

Innovation Waikato also has a post-incubator plan for companies that are developed through the unit.

"Rather than just shoving them out the door we can move them over to the commercial side of the property and then when they're big enough to need their own premises they can move on then. It cushions the change for them a bit."

The park was funded initially by a mix of public and private interests. Hamilton City Council and the Wel Energy Trust both provided funding as well as Trade and Enterprise New Zealand, formerly Industry NZ among others. Support from Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft and Telecom's Advanced Solutions Group mean the centre will launch with state-of-the-art server equipment and networking.

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