GridAKL-Huawei partnership highlights shifting focus

There was a time when an ambitious New Zealand innovation project would have looked to the UK, US or Japan for an international partner.

Now China is the first port of call.

Yesterday Huawei Technologies signed a three-year, million dollar sponsorship making it the foundation partner for GridAKL.

All such deals are symbolic. There are two messages here. First, China is central to Auckland’s ambition to be an Asia-Pacific innovation hub.

Second, it marks Huawei’s ascendency in New Zealand. The comes just ten years after the telecommunications giant first set up shop here.

The deal signed yesterday will see the Huawei fit out GridAKL buildings with its latest technologies. Huawei will also bring its procurement team to Auckland to meet potential business partners.

Guo Ping, Huawei’s global deputy chairman was in town for the announcement. He said Huawei had already made partnerships with many New Zealand companies.1

More symbolism: Auckland Mayor Len Brown and Minister for Economic Development Steven Joyce were on hand to welcome Guo Ping. Both politicians understand the significance of Huawei’s backing.

GridAKL is Auckland’s innovation hub. Ateed (Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development) manages GridAKL. Auckland Council invested $20 million in the project.

Ateed CEO Brett O’Riley say Huawei brings international credibility to the council’s investment in the innovation precinct. He says this reinforces the city’s vision.

Huawei and GridAKL announced the sponsorship deal in the impressive, yet barely finished Lysaight building on the corner of Halsey and Pakenham Street’s in the city’s Wynyard Quarter. Just hours before the announcement workers were removing construction equipment from the building and pulling protective tape off the windows.

Yesterday an official told me he expects the first companies will move into the new building in September. Ateed says there’s already a waiting list for desks and the nearby GridAKL building is already operating at capacity.


1. I wrote about Huawei’s Spark partnership for the NZ Herald last week.