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Christchurch Post Earthquake Developmental Ladder Award One: The Enterprise Precinct and Innovation Campus (Epic) project

The first nomination for a Ladder Award in this series of Christchurch post-earthquake recovery projects is for the initiators and backers of the Enterprise Precinct and Innovation Campus (Epic) project.

(The information here is drawn from the Christchurch Press of 25 July, 2011- see IT hub plan to spark revival)

The project’s co-leaders are principals from two Christchurch technology firms, Colin Anderson and Wil McLellan, and backers include Craig Nevill-Manning, who graduated from Canterbury University in 1989 and went on to join Google and found its New York software engineering centre. The Christchurch City Council and the New Zealand government are also providing the physical support needed in the form respectively of a rent-free site for 5 years, and start-up funding.

Anderson and McClennan, who represent thirty earthquake-displaced IT businesses that employ over 440 people, want to move to a strategically-located central city site. This is a site which the city council had purchased before the earthquakes for another development that fell through.

These IT business-people want innovation to become an essential component of the city’s re-development. As Wil McClennan says, the new Epic centre “will help stimulate growth in Christchurch and show the world that Christchurch is embracing the future.”

Significantly, assistance from the likes of Nevill-Manning will help to bring global perspective and connection to the Epic centre. Nevill-Manning said that Google would provide advice to the group on the design and function of the site, based on Google’s experience with its centres.

The kinds of project for which this series of Ladder Awards is being made would help to engage, draw contributions from and distribute benefits across the wider Christchurch as it rebuilds itself.

Learning the value of collaboration from earthquake situations

The Epic project grew out of learning the value of collaboration in the difficult circumstances of coping after the earthquake. The 30 companies displaced in the quakes fell back on operating from homes, warehouses, or whatever premises they could find, McLellan said.

After the February 22 quake, Mr McLennan’s firm Stickmen Studios had to leave its central Hereford St site and share premises with five other companies. While it was inconvenient, the experience showed the benefits of collaboration.

However, it became difficult for them to recruit and retain staff in these poor work conditions. So one of the major aims of the project is also to harness the power of collaboration which had been learned after the earthquakes.

Silicon Valley-style conversations

Nevill-Manning said he supported the idea of a hub, which would boost collaboration between companies and could become a “destination” for IT experts visiting the city.

He said this and what follows in The Christchurch Press 3 August, 2011 (Hub has Epic potential – visiting engineer )

He explained that “If you’re visiting New Zealand and you’re a tech entrepreneur, you’ll want to hang out at the hub and meet a bunch of interesting people working on interesting projects.”

He said there were similarities between Epic’s plans and successful technology centres around the world.

Why is Silicon Valley so successful? It’s because all the graduates are in one place and they can bump into each other at cafes and talk about their ideas …

You have to think about how people will interact, where they’ll bump into each other, the fun little touches. We’ve got a ladder from one floor to another, and people use it because it’s quicker than the stairs.

This potentially creative bumping into one another of those engaged in technological innovation is seen as pivotal.

Ladders awarded to other Christchurch projects in this series of Awards will also trace out ways of extending this innovative networking ambiance into nearby educational institutions as well as out into the city’s suburbs. Thus it could become quite possible not only to develop an innovative precinct, but also to make this precinct an innovative interactive hub that continually helps ginger, and become more gingered by, local nodes throughout an innovative city.

In this environment, larger firms like Google could also do very well themselves and the city by helping to foster, and become part of, a new innovative environment in this city.

Your comments (see form below) and nomination for a Ladder or Shovel Award most welcome

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