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2020 TechFest attracts industry leaders

Callaghan Innovation boss Vic Crone has been confirmed as a keynote speaker at the 2020 TechFest, recognising the Waikato’s strength in technology and innovation.

Ms Crone is CEO of the Government owned innovation agency, which partners with businesses of all sizes to provide a range of innovation and research and development services to suit each stage of their growth.

During 2019, Waikato’s tech sector received a total of 32 grants for R&D co-funding from Callaghan Innovation. The projects that received this co-funding had a combined value of $29.5 million, which signals the significant business spend on high-value tech and science-related activities in the region.

Driven by CultivateIT in partnership with Te Waka, TechFest is Waikato’s Festival of Technology and Innovation, with this year’s event being held on 3rd March 2020 at the Claudelands Events Centre in Hamilton.

Event director Jannat Maqbool says securing a speaker of Ms Crone’s calibre is a reflection of just how much our region’s tech sector is thriving.

“Ms Crone has significant executive and governance experience in technology and innovation so we are incredibly excited to be hosting one of New Zealand’s technology leaders.

“Ms Crone will be the keynote at one of the three main stage sessions running throughout the day, including panel discussions. Based on feedback from previous years, we will also be offering smaller, interactive seminars and workshops, which focus on specific technology topics.”

Ms Maqbool says the Callaghan Innovation team will be facilitating one of these workshops. Others will be hosted by leading Waikato-based companies including RocketSpark, Enlighten Designs, and SkyPoint Technologies. NZ Story is also running a session and Payments NZ is hosting a financial technology innovation focused session.

“The event brings together hundreds of technology leaders, business and the wider community from around the Waikato,” she says. “It is an opportunity for them to see, touch and experience innovative technology solutions, as well as network and showcase products.”

Ms Maqbool says exhibitor sites are filling up fast with more than half already booked to showcase the Internet of Things, smart cities innovation, Cloud technology, agritech, robotics, data centre storage and virtual reality.

“TechFest is not just for ‘techies’. Every year interest in the event is growing from people with non-technical backgrounds. There is something for everyone.”

The event is sparking interest from our tech leaders of the future. Ms Maqbool says several schools from around the region have already registered for the opportunity to connect with the tech industry.

“We are collaborating with Digital Natives Academy, Science Box and OMGTech! to include a schools experience as part of the festival where young people can get hands on with STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) activities and have fun investigating, exploring and interacting.”

Kiwibank staff will also be at TechFest with the Digital Inclusion Alliance Aotearoa and the DORA (Digital On-Road Access) bus delivering the Stepping UP Digital Banking workshop.

Te Waka chief executive Michael Bassett-Foss says TechFest is an opportunity for the Waikato tech sector to showcase its knowledge and expertise and demonstrate why it is experiencing such phenomenal growth.

“For 2017 and 2018, the TIN (Technology Investment Network) report identified our region’s tech sector as leading the way in revenue growth and investment in technology companies. This growth is continuing and is supporting economic development across the Waikato region.

“TechFest is also about connecting and providing an opportunity for people to network and build relationships. It is important that outside of events like this, we can keep the momentum and education going to further grow our region’s capability.”

TechFest is part of an ongoing effort led by CultivateIT to connect people within Waikato’s technology ecosystem, provide a voice for the industry and work together to help it thrive. In turn, it is supporting economic development and community wellbeing.

TechFest (Waikato Festival of Technology and Innovation) will be held at the Claudelands Events Centre on 3rd March 2020. It is free to attend the exhibition, keynote sessions and panel discussion, and there are affordable workshops on offer. For more information visit

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