OPINION: Innovation crucial forour economic growth

CREATIVE SPARK: Genius is not always immediately apparent.
CREATIVE SPARK: Genius is not always immediately apparent.

 AS the Hunter Innovation Festival enters its  sixth consecutive year, it is timely to investigate the origins of innovation and why we bother to celebrate it  during the month of May.

The word innovation has its origins in the 15th century and comes from the Latin innovatus (in – into, novus – new). 

By definition, innovation is to introduce something as, or as if, new and to make change. If we take that definition at its most literal, humans have been innovating since recorded history and beyond.

It’s amazing how many times innovations are realised through necessity. And how they make our lives easier. Consider the first fire, the first hammer, the first bow and arrow, the first handmade shelter.

It has always been  ‘‘elementary’’. Steven Johnson wrote in his essay, The Genius of the Tinkerer:  ‘‘Johannes Gutenberg, for instance, took the older technology of the screw press, designed originally for making wine, and reconfigured it with metal type to invent the printing press’’.

To take something that exists and adapt it to create something new has been a common theme around innovation throughout history.

So why celebrate innovation? Because it keeps the wheels turning on education, health, industry and ultimately the economy.

Innovators contribute continuous improvement, provide leadership, take risks and sometimes fail.

But as Edison said,  ‘‘I have not failed. I just found 10,000 ways that won’t work’’.

Bottom line: innovation is crucial to growth.

The Hunter Innovation Festival is supported by some hardworking individuals from active organisations. 

These champions include Regional Development Australia, NSW Trade and Investment, Hunter Valley Research Foundation,  councils, University of Newcastle, Newcastle Innovation,  Business Enterprise Centre, Engineers Australia, Hunter Business Chamber, HunterNet, Hunter TAFE and Eclipse Media, Events and PR.

And it is fitting to thank outgoing chairman of the Hunter Innovation Festival, Neville Sawyer, who has championed Innovation in the Hunter Region for many years.

As has incoming chairman John Coyle, who recently retired as chief executive of HunterNet.

There is plenty to celebrate. Newcastle Innovation will showcase a number of programs during the Tocal Field Days. Healthy Dads Healthy Kids encourages dads and their children to embrace healthy eating and activities with an emphasis on Family and Fun. 

The SHED-IT program is basic, simple and online, and encourages the 70per cent of men in Australia who are overweight or obese to make improvements to their health and habits.

The Hunter Valley Electric Vehicle Festival will also feature at the Tocal Field Days.

On show will be a new electric dirt bike that should excite youngsters and the young at heart alike.

The Hunter Valley Research Foundation and the Hunter Founders Forum will both hold breakfast events.

For the HVRF, operating since 1988, Caroline Veldhuizen, a senior research fellow, presents Natural Selection: Surviving the Global Jungle. Hans Kunnen, chief economist St George Banking Group presents Boom or Bust 2013-14.

The emphasis at the Hunter Founders Forum breakfast will be on commercialising innovations that have investment potential, including advice on start-up funding from Slingshot’s Craig Lambert and Trent Bagnall,  and Stephanie Fabian, director of PwC.

The Newcastle Port Corporation will take a group of business representatives on a tour of the Hunter Region’s growing port. 

A mix of education and pleasure, there are only limited places remaining.

Other events include the Hunter Defence Conference, Thriving in Lean Times, presented by HunterNet and a Straw Tower Competition at the basketball stadium aimed at year 4 students.

See  hccinnovationfestival.com.au  for full details.

The theme for the festival is Return on Innovation. 

With a plethora of inventions, new technologies and world-renowned researchers and companies, it would appear the investment has in many instances already been made. The return comes through the sustainable growth innovation realises.  

 Christina Gerakiteys is a Hunter Innovation Festival committee member 

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