The winds of change are transforming a site of smarts in Technology Valley.
What will soon be known as the Callaghan Innovation Quarter is morphing into being at its Gracefield site in Seaview.
What was, 80 years ago a munitions factory which became the headquarters for the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research (DSIR), before becoming the main base for Crown Research Institute Industrial Research Ltd in 1992, is in the middle of being revamped.
Many of its what were meant to be temporary buildings are having asbestos removed, roofs fixed, and decades of deferred repairs and maintenance put to rights under a four year fully funded Tactical Facilities Continuity Programme (TFCP).
This Callaghan Innovation initiative is being led by Design Officer Hayley Ellison, an urban planner by background with deep experience in brownfield developments.
The TFCP stage was signed off by the government in May 2019 following the acceptance of the redevelopment business case.
An upgrading of work facilities for chemists, physicists, engineers and mathematician has been led by the construction of an entirely new building for the Measurement Standards Laboratory - a metrology institute charged with ensuring New Zealand’s units of measurement as consistent with the International System of Units (the SI).
The TCFP is defined, but the rest of the expected upgrade is a work in progress under what is called a Strategic Services Programme.
“There’s a huge amount of engagement as part of the SSP business case, and that’s partly because of the enormous number of stakeholders,” says Hayley.
“It means what we’re doing isn’t just about built infrastructure. We’re looking to create a shared vision between Callaghan Innovation and our partners.”
These partners include, without being restricted to:
- Wellington Victoria University
- Ferrier Research Institute
- Robinson Research Institute
- NZ Trade & Enterprise
- Other Crown entities
- Other Crown Research Institutes
- WellingtonNZ (regional development agency)
- Local iwi
- Hutt City Council
- Technology Valley
- Current Gracefield site tenants
“One of our primary considerations is to lead with and have a review of the customer journey,” says Hayley.
“Callaghan Innovation isn’t set up and can’t provide all the services needed to help an entrepreneur take an idea through to a final product that is then marketed.
“But we are looking to set up an operating model that gives access to the services available through our partners who do do this.
“We want people to have a navigable path to those services. That’s why we need to work really closely, and have a shared vision.”
But while the blueprint isn’t yet crafted and the business case for the new and improved Callaghan Innovation Quarter not yet signed off by government, Hayley is sure of what some of the development will have (probably beginning in about four years).
Using overseas innovation hubs models and examples won’t necessarily work here she says.
“Overseas innovation hubs are much more about concrete structures,” Hayley says.
“A real asset we have here is our natural environment. We’re beside a stream, there’s tree-covered hills on our boundary.
“People come here and get taken aback by the environment. It’s special.
“We need to embrace this. If we are to attract talent here, part our our investment should be embracing the specialness of this site, and its context.”
Watch this space.