By Team Techweek

Mind-reading is cool, but so are lasers. Here's how we began to make sense of the New Zealand tech landscape ahead of Techweek'18.

Want to play a game? Grab a piece of paper and write down as many New Zealand companies as you can. We're guessing Fonterra is somewhere at the top of that list. And because you're likely to be a tech-y sort, Xero, RocketLab, Volpara and PushPay might be up there too.

Now scan the list. What themes tie these companies together? If these are the world leaders, who are the start-ups and scale-ups bringing up the rear? What New Zealand research enabled them to emerge? 

We did a similar exercise in planning for Techweek'18, only our figurative piece of paper ended up containing the names of over 500 New Zealand start-ups, 'scale-ups', world leaders and research institutes. 

Above: Actual footage of our long-list.

Advice from a panel of industry experts, and insights gleaned from our National Director Jenn's research trip to Europe earlier this year, told us that scale-ups – young(ish) companies that had a proven market for their product and were ready for international growth – were what skilled individuals here and overseas were looking for to convince them to come down and contribute to the bright future New Zealand is building. To engage those people in a meaningful way, we started looking for examples of unique, cutting edge New Zealand technology with the potential to make the world a better place.

Easy, right? It was, which makes us incredibly proud. We found companies that ticked the boxes in myriad areas, from health and sport to saas and govtech. We uncovered enough fascinating companies and individuals to fill the Techweek programme for years to come. There was the story of Cather Simpson, the University of Auckland scientist who developed a high tech solution to the issue of male bobby calves in dairy farming, involving bull sperm and lasers. Or Thought Wired, the start-up currently developing thought-controlled software to enable those with severe disabilities to communicate; or Biolumic, a company harnessing the power of UV light to dramatically improve crop yields.

Using UV light2
Above: Biolumic.

The tricky part was deciding, when faced with so much choice, which topics to focus on at Techweek'18. By focusing on just three of them in our Headline event series, through a handful of company case studies yet to be announced, we aim to magnify some of New Zealand's strengths, in horticulture and agritech, creativity (encompassing film and TV, virtual and augmented reality and artificial intelligence ) and advanced materials and high tech manufacturing.

The decision to choose those three areas was a journey that began with a question – what is New Zealand already known for, and how can we use the Techweek festival to amplify lesser known innovation in that area? We started with obvious things, like our reputation for producing some of the highest quality food in the world, our famous film industry, and our most recent advancement into space. Behind each of those 'known' things we uncovered a pipeline of potential to put on stage during the 2018 festival. Then we found key people within those ecosystems to help us bring these Headline events to life in a way that truly reflects what's happening at the coal face in each area.

We're excited to see the conversations we're hosting next year celebrate and challenge the knowns and unknowns of New Zealand innovation, and we're committed to continuing to make them happen year on year. These three topics are just the beginning, there are so many more stories to tell.

Want to find out more about the structure of next year's festival, and how to participate? Visit the Techweek Discovery forum: our shiny new discussion platform for event organisers and supporters. Have an event to submit? You can do so here.

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