Building Regional Innovation Ecosystems: Waterloo Innovation Summit

The University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, created the Waterloo Innovation Summit “to foster global innovation conversations with the power to influence change and drive prosperity. Bringing together leading innovators, global thought leaders, policy makers and academics, the annual summit aims to facilitate the expansion of an innovation culture through the continued development of technologies, approaches, and industries.”

Attending the summit this week with a delegation from University certainly proved a case study in how universities can help build regional innovation systems by contributing to the pipeline that goes from ideation to regional impact, via business model development, new venture creation, scaling and growth.

The highlight for me, apart from keynotes by Mariana Mazzacuto and Steve Blank was the use of ‘garage’ style space for collaborative student projects in Waterloo’s Engineering 5 building and other fabulous spaces in the Comunitech.  The garage metaphor is a classic one in start-up discourse, which is a great connection – but it’s not just about start-up, it’s about learning, skills, interdisciplinary connection, employabiity and just about every other kind of innovation win you can name.  Did I mention the interactive games display and the Quantum Orchestra? Memorable.

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5 to 5 bootcamp

The most enjoyable landmarks in my teaching year are connected to experiences where students go through a team-based idea development process.  Last year, the Innovation, Creativity and Entrepreneurship paper ran through the Start-Up Weekend, which coincided with our dates.  This year, we did our own thing as a 5 to 5 Bootcamp experience, where students developed new ideas from scratch, using the Business Model Canvas, working on ideas to transform the Higher Education experience.  The guys from the BCC ran the show in the awesome Factory workspace and the sun shone brightly on us too.  As usual, the students were the stars of the show, coming together in teams for the first time to take new ideas forward into potential business models.  It always amazes me just how far people travel during these weekends.  Looking forward to next year!



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Great to see the  Innovate finals at the NZ Sport and Rugby Institute  last week, where the winner, Kevin Halsall’s Ogo, was announced to a full house.  Ogo is a is a revolutionary wheel chair that blends cutting edge electronics and battery technology with an innovative intuitive hands free control system, allowing users to move with ease.  11 finalists demonstrated their ventures, with the top 5 pitching to the judges, a 10K prize to the winner.  The People’s Choice, a Massey University prize was won by Corey Regnerus for Milk E-Z a teat straightening device.  More details of the event here.


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A matter of trust: new research – help needed

New Research on trust in early stage ventures – in collaboration with Dr Melanie Ashleigh from University of Southampton, UK.

The concept of trust is a vital ingredient that contributes to new venture success and yet little or no empirical research exists of how trust is developed across new networks and relationships in the early stages of new ventures. Yet trust is especially important early on due to the anxiety, inherent risk and uncertainty within the start-up process. We also know very little about the ‘dark side’ of trust within this domain, which can impede progress. For example when trust is too high, resulting in a lack of monitoring one’s own and others needs and expectations. Or, when trust breaks down between actors and has to be repaired.

WHAT’S YOUR EXPERIENCE??? We are very excited about this research and would like to interview anyone who is an early stage entrepreneur – so anyone in the first stages of their new ventures! We would love to hear from you to learn about your perceptions and experiences of trust. Please contact us separately via email or leave a comment to find out more! We only need an hour of your time, for a confidential interview in person, skype, phone – your choice and time. Good experiences and bad!

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Wearable art, wearable technology too?

Loved finding out abut the Evento Wearable Art Awards (presented by Feilding High School at a High Tea organised by the National Council of Women, Manawatu earlier this week.  The energy, creativity and learning shine out from the two students who were there to demonstrate their costumes, Jodi Walker (pictured below) and Teigan Boyce-Towler.  As I was watching, I could see the connection between wearable art and wearable technology as the next step for the student designers who want to take this forward to the next stage of their careers.  Looking forward to exciting outcomes, and the next show on August 15, 2015.


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Innovate, renovate

Another big step in my NZ adventure – moving into the house I’m renovating.  Still a way to go, but hey, some nice niches are coming together!  Looking forward to getting a deck sorted for next summer.




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Another roadtrip

I spent Easter driving round the beautiful Coromandel, hitting not only typical tourist spots such as Hot Water Beach (not as idyllic as suggested, more like  a joint mass irrigation system!), but also less travelled routes such as the Tapu-Coroglen road and the Kauaeranga Valley.  Some serious driving concentration required throughout.  A highlight for me was the conversations at the Gold Mine Experience.  As well as a tour through the mine, it was fascinating to hear that there was still gold in the hills, and mining was still taking place.  Enjoyed talking to tour guide Alan, who was of Cornish Tin Mining stock.  What a journey it must have been in those days.  I also did a little bit of panning – found some gold, amethyst and ruby  fragments, but won’t be giving up the day job just yet!

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Akina Launchpad pitch day

It’s been so rewarding seeing a group of social enterprises developing their business models during the Akina Launchpad Accelerator.  You can meet the teams here.  Yesterday, saw the pitch event at Shed 7 on the Wellington waterfront.  The teams did themselves and the Accelerator proud with a range of great ideas presented to a very high standard.  Best wishes to them all in future.  There’s a lesson in how a supportive development process can really help the teams make a fit in what is often quite a complex regulatory and market environment.  Pics below:

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Business Bootcamp in Palmy

Great fun and great ideas at the 5 to 5 Business Bootcamp hosted by BCC  at the UCOL campus.  Year 11 students from the PNGHS and PNBHS got together in teams to test and develop business ideas. One lesson to learn from this event was how important it is to have an icebreaker activity when  getting people together to work in teams for the first time.  And so, much fun was had with spaghetti, string and a marshmallow…..

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ecentre Demo Day

Nothing beats the excitement of live pitches from real early-stage companies as a fascinated audience witnessed at Massey’s ecentre on the Albany campus last night.  10 companies pitched to get feedback on their developing ventures, with a diverse range of products and services covered — several in the field of finance and some very cool shoes. Every chance of going from garage to global, as the ecentre promises.  The message from the event from an audience point of view was how important to get the three elements at events like this

  • the pitch
  • the display
  • the idea

all aligned and complementing (yet not repeating) each other.  Certainly some excellent examples of that!

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