History of the Hunter Innovation Festival

Established in 2002, the Hunter Innovation Festival (Festival) began as an associated event of The Australian Innovation Festival, a national event that showcased Australian innovation. The festival has evolved and grown since 2002, but at its core, the festival remains a collaboration that brings together people from throughout the community to meet, be inspired, learn and share ideas. Each year, the festival is made possible by the dedication and hard work of those who participate in the local innovation ecosystem.

Today’s festival is managed by local innovation not-for-profit organisation Hunter iF Limited. Hunter iF collaborates with a range of organisations dedicated to creativity, innovation, entrepreneurship and intrapreneurship in the Hunter region. The festival’s expanded program of events includes workshops, interactive sessions, performances installations, speaker events and much, much more hosted in different venues across a range of different industries. In 2019 we had a 12 day program with 45 events and activities hosted in 21 different venues across the region.

The festival aims to inspire and promote a culture of innovation amongst Hunter businesses, researchers, industry and the wider community to help position the Hunter region as an internationally recognised centre for innovation.

By being part of the festival program, individual events gain exposure and benefit from the combined marketing efforts of all organisations involved.

History of Hunter IF

Hunter iF’s mission is to harness our region’s immense potential to help create a more innovative future. We are a not-for-profit support organisation encouraging and facilitating investment, jobs, and growth in the Hunter as it undergoes significant change. We provide a unified hub for innovation in the Hunter and develop a comprehensive, cohesive, and accessible package of services, programs and opportunities for individuals of any stage of business.

Hunter iF is accelerating innovative ideas to successful outcomes through connecting innovation to opportunity in the Hunter. By working collaboratively with the regional innovation community, we can unite our regions best and brightest with the tools and resources they need to develop their idea.

This program also assists those who are interested in the investment side of startups. Our numerous programs and connections to workshop events allow for investors to become more aware of the opportunities available to them throughout the Hunter.

Our Team

Alex Brennan – Festival Chair

Alex Brennan is a networker, angel investor and entrepreneur who has worked in the varied fields of stonemasonry, recruitment and economic development during his career. He is the Partnerships Manager at Business Hunter and the Chair of the Board for hunter iF, roles which complement each other in the breadth of their network and mission to create opportunities for the growth and connection of businesses within the Hunter Valley.

As Festival Chair for the Innovation Festival, Alex has the privilege to work with a diverse and talented group of people to strategise, plan and execute a world class festival showcasing the talents and incredible innovations that exist within the region.

Gordon Whitehead – Executive Officer

Gordon is an innovator and connector whose roots within the Hunter Valley run almost as deep as those within the Innovation Ecosystem. He founded and ran The Lunaticks Society, a group of passionate innovators, for many years, has worked for the Business Centre as a start up mentor and advocate and now runs his own innovation consultancy, The Idea Furnace.

Gordon is the Executive Officer for Hunter iF and Hunter Angels, and is intimately involved and very well networked in the local innovation ecosystem.

Xanthe Addison – Festival Coordinator

Xanthe Addison has worked in strategy, branding, communications, events and marketing for over twenty years – from large internationals through to grass-roots community projects. Xanthe is passionate about ensuring an ongoing vibrant, innovative Hunter Region – for future generations.

Xanthe has a business called Tribe Hunter, founded in 2014 and is a Conscious Leadership Coach with free weekly sessions which aim to build a thriving conscious-business community world-wide.

2022 is Xanthe’s first year working with the Hunter Innovation Festival and she is very much looking forward to working behind the scenes to help create something truly special and memorable.

Adrienne Donnelly – Festival Assistant

Adrienne Donnelly is a Virtual Personal Assistant who calls Newcastle home. Adrienne started her business, Organised by Adrienne, in 2016 when she saw a need for all round support for small business owners.

Adrienne has a team of specialists that work with her on projects including virtual assistants, graphic designers, photographers, videographers, copy writers, website developers and editors.

Adrienne is also the co-founder of the Newcastle Virtual Assistant Network, a group of over 150 other local Virtual Assistants.

Adrienne joined the Hunter Innovation Festival crew in 2017 and has been onboard as the Festival Assistant since then.