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.

Adrienne Donnelly – Festival Coordinator

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 200 other local Virtual Assistants.

Adrienne joined the Hunter Innovation Festival crew in 2017 as the Festival Assistant, before moving in to the Festival Coordinator role in 2023.

Shaun Pollington – Exhibition & Showcase Coordinator

Shaun is an Event Coordinator and owner/partner at Yes! Productions. Shaun’s first big gig was the successful 1996 Dungog Shire Spring Festival, a three day event showcasing five major shire towns, including transporting visitors via steam train, historical Red Rattler and Cob & Co horse drawn carriages. Coordinating events have become a love and forte.

Many strings contribute to Shaun’s bow, including singer/songwriter, sound engineer, stage manager, horse educator, soccer coach and NGO coordinator, and he has established himself as a dedicated and trusted community member with warm people skills, amazing attention to detail and safety first.

Shaun coordinated the Innovators Showcase in 2022 and is Innovators Exhibition and Transport Showcase Coordinator for 2023.

Spencer Pascoe – Committee Member

Spencer is a life-long resident of Newcastle and is enthused by its transition from its roots in coal mining to that of a smart city. He is inquisitive in nature and has an innate curiosity on how things operate, eager to understand the finest details.

Spencer is an analyst at the Port of Newcastle, providing in-house data solutions to help the business understand the results of its operations. He is inspired by the evolution of the Port as it transitions away from its historical use to a world-class innovation hub.

2023 is the second year for Spencer in the Organising Committee and loves the collaboration with other like-minded individuals who share the goal of bringing the best brains to Newcastle for a day of learning and sharing of intelligence.

Eloise Lobsey – Committee Member

Eloise is the Program Lead for Circular Economy at the Hunter Joint Organisation, a program focused on coordinating the various ways in which local government can help catalyse the region’s transition to a circular economy. She is a passionate systems thinker and circular design advocate who believes in the collective power of adopting regenerative mindsets. A town planner by trade, Eloise has 15 years of local government experience in NSW, Victoria and the UK, working across a range of environmental policy and programs focus areas including circular economy, food systems, behaviour change, placemaking, sustainable design and land use planning.