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Auckland wins national recognition for public innovation

Published: 4 November 2019

Creating innovations to solve complex city-scale problems has seen Auckland secure national recognition at the 2019 Economic Development New Zealand (EDNZ) awards.

GridAKL Innovation Labs won the EDNZ Best Practice Award for Innovation, while Go with Tourism – a game-changing job matching platform now being rolled out nationally – earned a commendation in the same category.

Mayor Phil Goff says Auckland Council and its economic development agency are leading the charge on how a city can be smarter about tackling urban challenges.

“It’s initiatives like this that help position Auckland as a major hub for innovation in Asia-Pacific and establish us as a place where innovative, world-leading ideas are created, using new and emerging technologies.

“Some of these solutions, like Go with Tourism and SafeSwim are now being adopted beyond Auckland – and New Zealand’s – borders, such as SafeSwim being sold to councils and regional authorities overseas.”

GridAKL Innovation Labs is a joint initiative between GridAKL and Innovate Auckland, the respective innovation teams from Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (ATEED) and Auckland Council.

The labs are made up of two physical spaces, Hatchbox and the Pop-Up Incubator, within the Madden St and Lysaght buildings of the GridAKL innovation campus in Wynyard Quarter. The adaptable and flexible spaces, operated by ATEED’s GridAKL team, are designed to encourage creativity and collaboration. Auckland Council’s Innovate Auckland teams bring their expertise, skills and technological know-how to run cross-agency workshops.

Together they provide neutral ground and collaborative opportunities for government, businesses, academia and communities to develop ideas that address some of Auckland’s complex urban, economic, and sustainability challenges.

Projects the labs tackle include Auckland’s real-time swimming conditions and water quality Safe Swim website; how to use city-wide data better in decision-making and safeguard Aucklanders’ data and privacy in the Smarter Cities project; technological and sustainability improvements to farming and food production practices; and climate action planning.

Mark Rawson, EDNZ awards judge and Nelson Regional Development Agency Chief Executive says GridALK Innovation Labs is an extraordinary example of an economic development agency fulfilling its role as an instigator of long-term systemic change where there is market failure, in this case in the innovation ecosystem.

The initiative has created significant results and the Innovate Auckland partnership is delivering impressive public benefits, in addition to the private benefit of the companies who are engaged in GridAKL programmes.

“Congratulations should go to all involved and New Zealand should be thankful that ATEED has led the way in enabling this initiative in a manner that provides an opportunity for others to learn from and potentially adapt for application in the rest of New Zealand.”

ATEED’s game-changing online job-connector platform Go with Tourism received a commendation in the same category from the EDNZ judges.

Go with Tourism was developed in partnership with Tourism Industry Aotearoa (TIA) in response to a sector experiencing significant skills shortages (an estimated 40,000 new tourism workers needed by 2025). It was a key project to emerge from Auckland’s Destination AKL 2025 visitor economy strategy which launched in 2018.

The initiative has since secured $5.2 million from the Government’s new International Visitor Conservation and Tourism Levy (IVL) to expand the platform into a wider national programme of activity to build the nationwide tourism workforce.

EDNZ judge Mark Rawson says the innovative Go with Tourism has created significant outcomes for both jobseekers and tourism employers.

“Congratulations to ATEED for developing and spearheading this campaign. The New Zealand visitor sector should be thankful for the leadership ATEED has demonstrated to address New Zealand’s growing skills shortages and the opportunities created for young people wanting to find a sustainable career pathway, and therefore improve the quality of their lives.”

Read more: Business & economy

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