Dunedin as an innovation hub

Civic leaders from Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch all talk of their city as the nation’s leading innovation hub. Each city has a case:

  • Auckland is big. It has the largest and the best university and an international airport. Most international technology companies are based there. It has more knowledge workers than any other city but they are spread out — the city has nothing resembling an innovation quarter.
  • Wellington is compact. It has the highest number of knowledge workers per square kilometre. Most work within walking distance of each other. That’s important, innovation works best when innovators interact with each other. Wellington is also home to New Zealand’s best-known tech companies including Xero, Weta and TradeMe.
  • Christchurch combines elements of both Auckland and Wellington. The city’s mayor Lianne Dalziel is the civic leader pushing innovation hardest and the planned innovation precinct will help.

Now David Cunliffe says: “Dunedin will be knowledge and innovation centre under Labour”.

At first this worried me. While it’s not good to put all your innovation eggs in one basket, there’s a strong case for concentration, especially in a small country.

However, Cunliffe is mainly talking about keeping the AgResearch facility at Invermay. It’s an important research centre, vital for New Zealand’s economic future.

Government plans to run down the Dunedin centre and move many of the jobs to Lincoln near Christchurch seem to have run into resistance from key staff who refuse to move north.

This reminds me of one of the first blog posts I wrote some six years ago. It was describing knowledge workers:

Any employer who abuses knowledge workers’ professionalism is likely to see their most important assets walk out of the door. This applies as much today as it did when there were more jobs around.

Picture credit: “St Paul’s Cathedral and Town Hall, Dunedin NZ” by huhnbeauftragter – Flickr. Licensed under Creative Commons