Christchurch Innovation Precinct announcement – early thoughts

Lots of excitement here in Christchurch yesterday when CERA / CCDU made the new Christchurch City Blueprint announcement. An impressive vision, great presentation, absolute genius to give the CBD a green eastern boundary, and most exciting of all is the inclusion of Christchurch’s new Innovation Precinct in the south east corner of the CBD. As previously blogged, Memia moves into the first building, EPIC Sanctuary, in October.

Check out the video above for a short overview of the whole project. (By the way kudos once again to Julian Carver and his team for seamless website performance when half the country tries to download at once – lesson to lots of other CIOs out there: just use Vimeo!).

So: here’s a relatively unique opportunity for Kiwi technology firms to congregate together and deliver potentially stellar IT sector-led export growth for the New Zealand economy – driven by the colocation synergies that come from knowledge sharing, skills development and better business networks. EPIC is the first phase of this with 17 innovative tech companies moving in under one roof, and this momentum is just the start of growing the technology sector after the earthquakes.

However, one thing is certain: the innovation precinct model will need to innovate itself in order to succeed. The goals of  high-growth (=high-risk) technology companies are not immediately aligned with those of classic New Zealand real-estate developers and investors: 1 month is a long time in the tech industry, let alone 4-7 years which is the usual expected lease duration. The innovation precinct office leasing model will need to provide some sort of liquidity which enables successful high-growth companies to expand rapidly, and others to fail quickly, without locking them into timescales which are out of step with the pace of change in the tech industry. Also, a lot of tech workers are now able to work completely “virtually” in the Cloud: traditional target CBD rents of $400/sq/m are hard to justify when all you need is free wifi, somewhere to put your laptop and  the occasional meeting room.

So, lots of challenges, but there are plenty of indicators that there are solutions out there to be had – just look at how many Silicon Valley firms are now moving into San Francisco with lots of shared working spaces popping up. Roll on EPIC Phase 2….