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Monday, May 10, 2021

Innovate to regenerate at popular Hunter festival

The Hunter Innovation Festival is set to return in 2021… with the theme Innovate to Regenerate.

The popular event, to take place from Monday 3 May to Sunday 16 May, aims to connect, inspire, educate and promote a culture of origination throughout the region.

Activities range from interactive workshops to information sessions on how to secure funding for new ventures, tech play for all ages, tours of local businesses achieving great things, lunches, inspirational talks and more.

Newcastle boasts a proud history when it comes to innovation, manufacturing and engineering, hosting more than 180 inventive ecosystem assets including 25 spaces, 24 programs and 15 support organisations.

And, thanks to City of Newcastle – in partnership with Hunter iF – it’s all systems go again next month.

Festival coordinator and innovation consultant Claire Quigley said she was excited to deliver an event, which focused on making innovation accessible through hybrid and virtual activities throughout Newcastle, Lake Macquarie, Cessnock and all the way up to Scone.

One of her goals for 2021 is to create connectivity across community, business and industry, government and education.

This is reflected in the diverse range of events in the festival line-up.

“The Hunter is the leading regional economy in Australia,” she said.

“And, in order to maintain that position, we need opportunities to connect people, ideas and capabilities to continue fostering innovation.”

Lake Macquarie will be home to several interactive activations during the festival.

“We’re excited this year’s festival event is focused on bringing people and ideas together in a free, dynamic, hands-on environment,” Lake Macquarie City Council’s Smart Cities lead Claire Chaikin-Bryan said.

“We want to hear your ideas and gain an understanding of how you use innovation in your life.

“We’re open to different concepts and we want to connect you with available supports to make them a reality.”

A highlight of what’s taking place at Lake Macquarie includes the High School Protothon, giving some aspiring young innovators the chance to design a prototype, pitch it and gain valuable resources to help them with future endeavours.

They’re also proud to be launching their expanded Community Internet of Things Network and will host workshops throughout the festival to inspire people to get hands-on and create their own uses for the network.

According to Lake Macquarie City Council, growth in the innovation eco-system provides the greatest economic opportunities for the region’s future, holding the key to solving social and environmental challenges.

“Innovation is vital to the creation of a circular economy – and a vibrant future for Lake Macquarie,” Ms Chaikin-Bryan said.

The Hunter Innovation Festival is actively supported by AusIndustry, who instigated the first event in 2002.

AusIndustry Hunter regional manager Natalie Gillam sees the festival as a valuable way to bring innovation awareness to the entire region.

“Innovation is not just a city thing,” she said.

“But, it isn’t always high-tech either.

“Rather innovation is changing the way things get done – be it a totally new device or a new way of making the device, a new piece of software, new materials, new business models.”

Another long-time champion of the Hunter Innovation Festival, the University of Newcastle believes the event plays a big role in connecting emerging and experienced innovators and entrepreneurs through a number of activities, including Startup Stories.

“The best kind of innovation brings people together for a common good, which is exactly what we’ll need to overcome some of the most pressing challenges of our time,” I2N senior manager Siobhan Curran said.

The festival is also proudly supported by longstanding Hunter organisations, the Port of Newcastle and The Garis Group.

With such a passionate, dedicated team of sponsors and volunteers, organisers are confident the 2021 Hunter Innovation Festival will bring short and long-term gains to the entire region.

A full event calendar and more details are available at https://hunterinnovationfestival.org/program-2021

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