Smart Ideas competition: Finalists to pitch for start-up grant

Anthony Tietze and Emma Levine at the old Newcastle Post Office, are two of the Smart Ideas competition finalists. Picture: Peter Stoop

Anthony Tietze and Emma Levine at the old Newcastle Post Office, are two of the Smart Ideas competition finalists. Picture: Peter Stoop

Opinion: The collaborative approach

LATE night food trucks, a suite of ‘‘mild to wild’’ solar-charged bicycle products, and functional but stylish outdoor exercise equipment.

All three concepts are designed to enhance Newcastle’s most popular outdoor venues and bring associated economic spin-offs.

And each has been judged a winning idea in the Newcastle Herald’s Smart Ideas competition.

The three finalists – Emma Levine, Brian Hill and Anthony Tietze – will pitch their ideas to a panel of judges on Tuesday at the breakfast event to launch the Hunter Innovation Festival.

The winner will receive $500 cash, a $1000 fund to develop the idea and up to $1000 to access a mentor and advisory services from the University of Newcastle and the Business Centre Newcastle. 

Structural engineer Anthony Tietze drew inspiration for his idea of outdoor exercise equipment from a two-year work stint in Korea, where such apparatus is commonplace.

‘‘It’s a way of life in Korea and the equipment is used by young and old,’’ said Mr Tietze, who said he used the equipment before or after work during his time there.

Mr Tietze, who designed and spearheaded fundraising for the ‘‘bat ball walls’’ in Empire Park, Bar Beach, said the outdoor equipment encouraged both fitness and community socialising and solidarity.

A long-term outcome would be improved community fitness and reduced healthcare costs. 

Twenty-six-year-old Ms Levine has advocated an inner-city network of late night food trucks she envisages would sell everything from New York-style pizza to hand-churned ice-cream.

She said the benefits of having an evening food truck program in Newcastle would be to reduce intoxication by offering a food product, boost non-alcohol related foot traffic, increase safety by activating spaces and boost both employment and the night-time economy.

The inner-city resident and employee believes her idea would revive Newcastle’s night-time economy.

‘‘Everyone knows the city nightlife is struggling, it’s potentially dangerous, businesses are finding it hard to safely operate and people are going out less than they used to,’’ she said. 

‘‘I love to go out and comfortably walk around Newcastle at night and the early hours and I’d like it to be a pleasant, thriving place.’’

‘‘At the moment I have to think [about that prospect] more than I should.’’

Newcastle City Council is finalising a draft policy for mobile food vending vehicles, which is expected to be presented to councillors in the coming months.

A council spokeswoman said a launch is planned for a trial period of the policy once it is approved by the council.

Third finalist Brian Hill has been promoting and proving the value of electric bikes as a transport system with health and environmental benefits.

His company, Quiet Rush, is working on bringing an electric bike-powered festival to the Foreshore.

Mr Hill’s pitch to the Herald’s Smart Ideas competition centres on three solar-powered bike infrastructure pilot projects, which range from the mild to wild.

The first is solar-charged eBike rental stations at key points of interest for port visitors. The second is solar-powered cargo cycles able to be used as mobile shops, charging stations and even festival film projection platforms. The last is for silent and solar-powered urban action sports, potentially using Stealth Electric off-road bikes.

Mr Hill, who studied occupational therapy at the University of Newcastle and has a family history of manufacturing, says electric bike sales in Europe were streaking ahead.

‘‘I’ve always had a view that we need a stronger focus on the renewable sector for a stronger economic future in the Hunter,’’ he said.  

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