Wellington’s hefty fund for science city development boosts city’s meetings potential

BioTechNZ held its Life Sciences Summit in Wellington in March, drawing almost 400 attendees, 63 speakers, 26 exhibitors, and 30 sponsors across two days

The New Zealand government’s recent decision to set aside NZ$450 million (US$279.4 million) in funding to make Wellington a “centre of research, science and innovation” has put more power behind Business Events Wellington’s ongoing push to attract and grow science and technology meetings and events in the capital city.

The funding supports plans that were unveiled last year to “make Wellington a vibrant, resilient, and adaptable centre of research, science and innovation before 2030”, according to the proposal published by the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment.

BioTechNZ held its Life Sciences Summit in Wellington in March, drawing almost 400 attendees, 63 speakers, 26 exhibitors, and 30 sponsors across two days

News reports in May detailed that the plans would include the establishment of three new research hubs in the city, each with a different area of focus.

At present, the capital region already has a strong establishment of research centres. Data collected in 2022 showed that the Wellington region had 165 business units in the Scientific Research Services sector, and accounted for 20.2 per cent of national employment in the Scientific Research Services sector (10.6 per cent of the population).

Irette Ferreira, manager at Business Events Wellington, told TTGmice that the new funding would immediately gift Wellington a reputation of being “a place of opportunity if you are in science and innovation”.

“With the government’s investment, even more people – both locals and those from abroad – will be encouraged to join the scientific fields,” she added.

She believes that foreign experts will bring their global connections with them, particularly with international associations, which will in turn help Wellington to attract global conferences in their fields. These events will then provide the platform for New Zealand researchers to present their work, attract investors that will fund further studies and attract even more experts in the field to Wellington.

Business Events Wellington has seen recent successes in courting meetings in the fields of research, science and innovation, with the latest victory being BioTechNZ’s Life Sciences Summit held earlier in March.

The Summit is part of a multi-year partnership to anchor the conference in Wellington and grow the country’s promising biotech sector. Its inaugural edition in 2023 attracted almost 400 attendees, 63 speakers, 26 exhibitors, and 30 sponsors across two days.

In reviewing host city Wellington, BioTechNZ’s executive director Zahra Champion said: “Wellington is perfect as a conference destination – the city has all the ingredients, from the diverse groups of people to attend, plus government, and it’s just an easy place to move around.

“With the government based in Wellington, alongside other sectors of strength, it was also easy to bring speakers in – Callaghan Innovation and Victoria University of Wellington were fantastic to work with, and the Malaghan Institute of Medical Research helped create content, pulling a number of their speakers together which added integrity to the content.”

Business Events Wellington’s work is supported by funding that allows the office to incentivise valuable international conferences to come to Wellington. It is also working with Wellington City Council to identify and grow local conferences that are in a sector of interest.

Besides BioTechNZ’s Life Sciences Summit, this approach has also yielded a multi-year contract in 2021 with the New Zealand Game Developers Association to anchor its New Zealand Game Developers Conference in Wellington and to expand the event by incorporating film, screen and interactive media sectors alongside its traditional gaming content.

“These are just some of the things we’ve been doing with the new Tākina Wellington Convention and Exhibition Centre in mind, so that the new convention centre is supported by a stream of valuable events,” said David Perks, general manager – Tākina commercial development, Wellington City Council.

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