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Derek Fairweather CEO Waikato Innovation Park CREDIT: Waikato Innovation Park

Social Dimension of AgBio NZ Cluster Set for Revival
Wednesday 30 June 2010, 7:27AM
By Innovation Waikato Limited


The Waikato Innovation Park, in partnership with James & Wells Intellectual Property (IP), announced today it is reinvigorating the social dimension of the AgBio New Zealand Cluster.

The AgBio NZ Cluster was originally initiated by Hamilton City Council in 2002 with the assistance of Dr Bill Kain and funding by New Zealand Trade & Enterprise. The cluster is a grouping of New Zealand organisations – many of them headquartered in the Waikato region - in the agriculture, agricultural technology and agricultural science fields.

Innovation Park CEO, Derek Fairweather, says kick-starting the cluster again is about helping companies make connections that will yield commercial outcomes.

“We’ve found in the past that there are real benefits to be had by simply getting agriculture, ag technology and ag science businesses and CRIs together in one place along with key people from University and Wintec.

“There is no place for these people to get together on a regular basis, learn what each other is up to and make connections with new people. It’s always interesting to see how conversations over a beer can turn into commercial conversations and partnerships of varying degrees,” explains Mr Fairweather.

James & Wells IP partner, Ceri Wells, said that “funding the Cluster supported his firm’s mission to use its knowledge and influence to increase local innovation and business.”

The Cluster’s first event is being held on 21 July at the Park and is a panel discussion on the topic of “Partnering to Compete: Realistic or Idealistic?” Confirmed panel participants are Graham Stewart, CEO of Sealord; Andy West, soon-to-be Head of Strategy for Seales; and Paul McGilvary, CEO of Tatua. Additional panel speakers are still being confirmed.

Mr Fairweather says the “panel discussion will see participants sharing their opinions on whether it is realistic for New Zealand companies, who are often competitors at home, to partner in order to compete off-shore. Panel participants will share relevant case studies based on their company’s experiences. Cluster members in attendance will have the opportunity to test their opinions and join in the debate.”

The Innovation Park took over management of the Cluster from Hamilton City Council in 2005. However, a loss of the very minimal Government funding for the initiative saw the Park reduce social events and focus on Cluster activities that were close to cash in recent years.

Mr Fairweather says, “the Park has kept in close contact with many Cluster participants, working on several commercial ventures together. There has always been interest in reviving the social side of the Cluster, as people see value in the networking and knowledge sharing that comes from such events. Funding from James & Wells IP now makes this possible.”

Two other Cluster events are already in the planning stages. An ‘AgBio Speed Dating’ event is being planned for September, where cluster companies will give their elevator pitches in quick succession, similar to a traditional speed dating event. A high-profile speaker – yet to be confirmed - is also being booked for a November event.

Additionally, James & Wells IP will be scheduling ‘JAWS Fireside Chats’ where Cluster members can sit down with James & Wells partners to get free advice and information on intellectual property, trademarks and patents.

Events are open to Cluster members only. To join the Cluster at minimal cost, companies can phone the Innovation Park on 07 857 0500 to request a membership application form. INDEX