In less than four years the GridAKL innovation precinct has grown from temporary premises in Halsey St to starting to fill three modern buildings in the heart of Wynyard Quarter.

GridAKL is now home to nearly 100 smart technology companies aiming to present their innovative products and services on the global stage.

The companies, from start-ups to small and medium-sized enterprises and some corporates, are spread over the refurbished John Lysaght and Mason Bros buildings in Pakenham St West and the newly-built, six-level 12 Madden St - after the original 15 resident business "set up shop" in the temporary Polperro Building during the second half of 2014.

The Lysaght Building is operating at full capacity with 65 businesses, and a total staff of 225.


And the recent opening of Mason Bros and 12 Madden St, owned by Precinct Properties, takes GridAKL's footprint to 12,000sq m - enough space for more than 300 businesses or nearly 1200 workers, including nomads and hot deskers.

The Madden St building is New Zealand's first and largest purpose-built co-working space designed to give the innovative companies the best possible working environment in which to thrive.

The 5-Green Star building has state-of-the-art meeting rooms, a members' lounge, and events space for 300 people. There are three co-working levels and two of corporate offices.

One of the early tenants at Madden St is Zino Ventures, the first Chinese venture fund in New Zealand, and several international tech companies will soon be coming onboard.

The operator, Generator, has already run more than 200 events in Madden St including Innovation Day, AI Happy Hour and the first livestream of TechCrunch Australasia.

GridAKL has a total of 8500sq m of flexible co-working spaces and serviced offices where the early stage companies collaborate by sharing ideas, solutions and experiences to enable them to grow.

They are engaged in accelerator programmes such as Lightning Lab, drop-in sessions on subjects such as accounting, law and intellectual property, Callaghan Innovation workshops, special events with expert speakers and networking functions.

They are supported by a network of investors, tertiary organisations, government agencies and other professional services.

The businesses cut across a diverse range of technology solutions and platforms - from social enterprise, user experience design, data visualisation and geospatial data to health and safety and financial services.

Auckland Council allocated $30 million over 10 years for the development of the GridAKL precinct and Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (Ateed)'s role was to make it happen - including assisting these growth-orientated, technology-focused businesses to commercialise their innovations.

Patrick McVeigh, general manager Economic Growth at Ateed, says his organisation partnered with Panuku Development Auckland and Precinct Properties to develop the (precinct) infrastructure and activate the space.

"But we took the position of handing the facilities to the private sector to run them on a daily commercial basis and create market opportunities."

With its expansion, GridAKL has become the lynchpin of a vibrant innovation corridor stretching from Massey in the north to Manukau in the south.

The corridor, a healthy spine through the middle of the Auckland region, creates a strong ecosystem and paves the way for Auckland becoming a major innovation hub of Asia-Pacific.

Along the spine, there's clusters of shared workplaces (such as GridAKL and Smales Farm at Takapuna); incubators and accelerators (such as the Icehouse); Massey, Auckland and AUT universities and Crown Research Institutes (for research and development); and the professional services and early stage investors.

There's a plethora of technology-oriented companies developing an incredibly wide range of smart new products. They are focusing on scaling as quickly as possible, selling into the international markets, and increasing Auckland and New Zealand's value-added exports. Ateed, Auckland's economic growth agency, is right behind them.

McVeigh says the innovation corridor with its linkages and connections provides endless opportunities.

"The corridor gives Auckland a rich growth story. A majority of our advanced companies are located along this spine - as are our main tertiary institutions - and the corridor provides a concentration of intellectual capital and knowledge, and connectivity with talent and skills, and research and development.

"People, both locally and globally, are now aware that the advanced industries are sitting in the innovation corridor. These are the industries that grow quicker and attract a skilled workforce," says McVeigh.

"Auckland is now well-placed to attract new businesses, investors and talent, who can all tap into the assets of the innovation corridor.

"Ateed's role is to facilitate and connect the nodes and assets - to ensure that the different industry sectors have the right supply of land, premises and workforce available to support ongoing growth."

McVeigh says since the innovation corridor stretches from north to south, it spreads the benefits of growth across the Auckland region and creates multiple opportunities for companies of all sizes looking to expand or establish operations here.

"There is the choice of offices near the downtown waterfront or Smales Farm, industrial and distribution space at the airport and across South Auckland, or new commercial spaces emerging in proximity to new housing developments at Albany and Manukau. The diversity of opportunities is what businesses and their staff are looking for."

Ateed has identified eight sectors of advantage in Auckland: technology, commercial services, food and beverage, advanced materials and manufacturing, screen and creative, tourism, international education and construction.

These sectors produce a wide range of high-tech products and services such as ICT, robotics, medical devices, agricultural machinery, financial technology, pharmaceuticals, high-value food, composite and polymer materials, film production, gaming, engineering and architectural consulting.

McVeigh says these competitive sectors provide higher-value jobs, increase productivity and generate wealth.

"They are parts of the economy that add most value to the city, and these types of industries are critically important to Auckland's long term economic growth. "They have performed well since the global financial crisis. "They are research and innovation-based and focused on global exports, providing better opportunities for Aucklanders.

"We have the opportunity of looking at how to accelerate and facilitate the growth across the city through the innovation corridor," says McVeigh.