Newcastle Innovation Festival returns with bigger program and less “tech” focus

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BIGGER and better – that’s the simple formula of the impending Hunter Innovation Festival. The 2019 edition of the festival, from May 6 to 17, has triple the events and a focus on taking the “techy” out of procedures to make it more accessible. City of Newcastle has provided $20,000 in funding as festival partner and the event will be organised by not-for-profit group Hunter IF, led by its project coordinator Richard Christian. Kahlea McGeechan is the newly appointed festival organiser and long-term festival strategist Christina Gerakiteys the event’s inaugural “champion connector”. “There’s a lot of impetus to develop the innovation ecosystem and provide more cohesion and connect all the players throughout the Hunter and this is a fantastic vehicle for that,” Mr Christian said. “We also felt that it was an opportune time to uplift the exposure and engagement … and from an ongoing sustainability perspective we’d like to provide a platform for more support for some of the bigger potential sponsors within the innovation ecosystem.” Run for 17 years by volunteers, the festival’s theme is Future Proofing the Hunter, with 30-plus events highlighting innovation across industries. “We are trying to connect all the dots and tighten up the ecosystem, because there are so many pockets of innovation all over the place,” says Ms Gerakiteys. The festival is about bringing technology to the people: “Innovation can scare people, they think it will overtake them, so the more interaction we  can create the more comfortable they feel.” With the city’s smart city credentials and University presence, the organisers say the festival will elevate interest in innovation and awareness of the number of startups in play. “It’s about providing an opportunity to connect with each other and innovation and  opportunities to progress,” says Ms McGeechan. “It could be someone who is just discovering innovation … or someone that has an idea who can connect and be inspired to take the next step.” ​See hunterinnovationfestival.com.au.

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