There is strong demand for places in Auckland's Innovation Precinct.

The innovation precinct at Wynyard Quarter for ICT and digital media companies recently reached an exciting milestone with BizDojo and The Icehouse - both highly respected in the innovation ecosystem - joining forces to become the operator.

Ateed CEO Brett O'Riley says there has been strong demand from potential tenants and the operator is busy ensuring an optimal mix. The first tenants, including Ateed's central office team which will deliver a full business growth programme, will move to the first refurbished building next month.

The next stage of the $20 million multi-year Council project being delivered by Ateed and Waterfront Auckland will be the fully refurbished Lysaght Building, due to be available for tenants late this year.

"By the end of the year, we will have the foundations of what we expect to be a world-class innovation hub up and running, with an exciting mix of tenants supported by incubator and accelerator services and plugged into a programme of events and activations," says O'Riley.

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In future years, Ateed will work with Waterfront Auckland and its development partner on the design and delivery of new buildings across the precinct, to grow existing businesses and attract new investment and jobs.

O'Riley says the precinct will be the centrepiece of an innovation corridor which is taking shape from north to south across the region.

"There are hotbeds of innovation including Albany and Takapuna, Henderson, Parnell, East Tamaki, and further south around the Auckland Airport.

"For Ateed, it's a matter of promoting connections and ensuring we work collaboratively with Auckland's key growth high-tech industries from north to south."

At the southern end of the corridor is New Zealand Food Innovation Auckland Ltd, operating as The FoodBowl - Te Ipu Kai.

The state-of-the-art food production facility opened in 2011, and was originally an Ateed subsidiary funded by the Government, and by Ateed on behalf of Auckland Council.

Last year, Ateed and Callaghan Innovation signed a joint venture deal which saw The FoodBowl become a Crown entity, two thirds owned and funded by the Government.

O'Riley says it was a significant boost for Auckland's $3 billion-a-year food and beverage sector, and an important strategic and economic growth decision for Ateed.

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"Aside from the addition of Callaghan Innovation's skills, resources and business networks, the joint ownership and funding model secures The FoodBowl's long-term future and provides the support required for the facility to boost the region's food and beverage sector."

The FoodBowl's processing plant and supporting business development services has so far been used by more than 600 innovative food and beverage companies from Auckland and around the country - both start-ups and major companies, and typically, more than 20 at any one time.

Leading poultry producer Tegel Foods successfully used The FoodBowl for trials when it wanted to extend the shelf life of its products to overcome the impact of long-distance travel from New Zealand. Tegel, based in Auckland, was able to produce a new chicken product for Asian markets using the revolutionary high pressure processing (HPP) system at The FoodBowl for year-long trials. Experimenting with different combinations of the HPP system, the Tegel project team was able to extend the shelf life of the chilled product, a chilled manuka-smoked chicken leg fillet, without changing most of its properties including colour and texture.

The product's existing shelf life was nearly tripled, giving enough time for shipping (normally six weeks) to international markets and for retailers to stock and sell the leg fillets.

Sadia Seemeen, process improvement technologist at Tegel during the project, said The FoodBowl was important for companies wanting to explore new markets and develop new products. "To invest in a $500,000 HPP machine for testing is just not feasible. The FoodBowl has the technology to explore different ways of doing things - that's a great asset in a country like New Zealand that relies on export sales to add to the economy."

Ateed's key infrastructure projects are supplemented by its delivery of the Regional Business Partner programme across the region - which helps SMEs access more than $3 million of government R&D funding each year - and by seizing one off opportunities. For example, last year, Ateed was part of the "NZ Inc" programme during the America's Cup in San Francisco and Auckland's innovation became the focal point of its high-value industry showcasing.

"While racing put the spotlight firmly on marine technology innovation from Auckland companies such as Cookson Boats, Core Builders Composites, and Salthouse Marine, we were able to showcase the region's most innovative companies in ICT and digital - such as Booktrack, and high-value manufacturing," says O'Riley.

"The San Francisco programme and the reaction from influential potential investors and clients confirmed that our best innovators are world class, and are key to our economic transformation."

Precinct operators set to create world-class hub

The BizDojo and The Icehouse are excited to partner Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (Ateed) to operate the innovation hub in Wynyard Quarter on Auckland's waterfront.

The operator partners believe that to foster a strong innovation culture in New Zealand, organisations which help businesses to grow need to collaborate to bring the innovation hub to life.

BizDojo partner Nick Shewring envisages a hub that connects with local innovation partners, teems with energy and enthusiasm, is lean and agile and encourages smart thinkers to meet and naturally collaborate.

"We want to create a space where ideas not only begin, but through support and network connections, they come to life," says Shewring.

"This is a fantastic initiative, and we're proud to be creating an inspiring, exciting and fast-paced innovation hub."

Ken Erskine, Startup and Ice Angels director for The Icehouse, says the partnership brings the two companies' complementary skills together to create a powerful environment that will support high-growth businesses.

"The BizDojo holds significant expertise around developing a vibrant community and creating a quality experience for tenants. We bring experience in helping these companies grow, developing a strong brand and using a powerful network to add value back to the entrepreneurs who are giving it a crack," he says.

The two organisations were attracted to running the hub by its potential to put Auckland on the international innovation map - and create a central place to connect the New Zealand's wider innovation community.

Erskine says the precinct will put smart people around other smart people in collaborative spaces "where magic can happen".

"A developer ends up sharing an idea with a marketer. They decide to start up an enterprise, and bam, you have another great collaboration built naturally around relationships."