Getting up to speed with innovation

Getting up to speed with innovation
The Gracefield Innovation Quarter is being transformed into a centre for cutting edge innovation.

Major works are being undertaken to trans-form the Grace-field Innovation Quarter (GIQ) into a cutting edge innovation community capable of making a significant contribution to the government’s target to increase research and development expenditure by 2% of GDP by 2027, says GIQ programme director Johnny Priestly.
“We are aiming to build an innovation community on the site that will facilitate partnerships incorporating different skillsets from industry and government,” he says.
In 2018 research and development expenditure in New Zealand totaled 1.37 percent of GDP, which is below the OECD average of 2.4 percent.
Johnny says that to achieve the government’s goal businesses will need to prioritise and increase their investment in R&D.
As 98% of New Zealand businesses have less than 20 employees and very few have the resources or capacity to invest in the specialist skills and equipment needed to research, develop and commercialise their ideas this is where GIQ steps in.
Set on a 10-hectare site in Lower Hutt GIQ is one of Callaghan Innovation’s R&D facilities. It has been in existence since the 1940s and is currently home to over 200 scientists, researchers and technicians, as well as tenant businesses and support teams.
Johnny says a lack of investment in the Grace-field site for many decades, further exacerbated by damage sustained in the November 2016 Kaikoura earthquakes, has necessitated some urgent investment.
Through Budget 2019 the Government invested a further $75 million to redevelop GIQ. This funding enables two long-term programmes of work to be undertaken.
The Tactical Estates Continuity Programme is focused on ensuring safety and continuity for critical business operations and the future-focused. The Strategic Services Programme is looking at the development of the facilities and an innovation community to deliver to the investment objectives.
Johnny says that the priority for the Tactical Estates Programme has been addressing issues demanding immediate attention, including structural upgrades to buildings, asbestos contamination and deferred maintenance.

Getting up to speed with innovation
Set on a 10-hectare site in Lower Hutt, the Gracefield Innovation Quarter is one of Callaghan Innovation’s R&D facilities.

A key project has been constructing a new building to accommodate the Measurement Standards Laboratory, New Zealand’s national metrology institute.
Johnny says the building is highly specialized and extensive mechanical and engineering expertise has been required. “Some of the scientific equipment was built decades ago in the previous building,” he says.
“So there has been a lot of planning as to how to best move and acclimatise this sensitive equipment to the new laboratory. It’s something that has never been done before.”
To give some idea of the nature of the challenge, although the building is earmarked for completion for early next year it is expected commissioning the scientific equipment and getting to a decent operating efficiency will take around six months.
The next project being undertaken in the Tactical Estates Programme is to stabilise existing staff and tenant accommodation and improve safety and resilience across the site.
Leaks, failing air conditioning, dangerous goods storage, and other issues are impacting on the working environment for the staff and tenants and require urgent remediation, explains Johnny.
Future works planned include upgrades to the hazardous goods handling, chemical storage and utilities infrastructure on the site, increasing flexible and business growth workspaces.
Concurrently the Strategic Services Programme is focused on the development of a GIQ innovation community where business and innovators can come to collaborate, partner and commercialise their ideas.
Johnny says that the world is changing faster than ever before with associated technology shifts capable of transforming society and its values.
“To survive and thrive New Zealand businesses need to stay at the forefront of these trends by investing in research and development and innovation capability so that they can be more productive, grow faster and be more likely to contribute to positive social outcomes.”
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