Hunter gears up for annual innovation festival

This article first appeared in Newcastle Weekly.


Experts from numerous fields, from engineering to manufacturing, technology to city planning, will join forces at next month’s Hunter Innovation Festival.

And, they’ll come together at the Hunter IF-coordinated function, at Newcastle City Hall, on Wednesday 12 October.

Event chair Alex Brennan admitted the diverse line-up of speakers would inspire attendees to think creatively.

“Innovation isn’t just about creating new things,” he said.

“It’s about applying what you have learned in different ways to achieve different outcomes than you have before.

“We’ve put together an engaging array of people who will inspire, challenge and motivate the crowd to do just that.”

The morning session of the Hunter Innovation Festival will focus on the future of regional innovation, the renewable energy precinct and how the current industry and infrastructure has created a foundation for a prosperous future in the Hunter.

Speakers and panellists include Beyond Zero Emissions CEO Heidi Lee, Newcastle Deputy Lord Mayor Declan Clausen, HunterNet CEO Ivan Waterfield, Ampcontrol managing director Rod Henderson and Port of Newcastle chief commercial officer Simon Byrnes.

“We will get the crowd energised after lunch with Patagonia native and former head of Lonely Planet, Gus Balbontin,” Mr Brennan said.

“He worked with leading global companies such as Google X, Nokia and Amazon during his tenure at Lonely Planet on the latest technology, creative cultures and high performing teams.

“He’s sharing those experiences and more at the festival.”

The afternoon gathering will be spilt into streams with expert speakers followed by lively panel discussions with participants from international conglomerates like Microsoft and Atlassian, alongside industry, business and government.

Those also taking part include Milltech Martin Bright CEO Fred Reis, RMIT/Gartner’s Aaron McEwan, PricewaterhouseCoopers partner Lisa Foster, Energy Corporation manager planning and policy Adam Clarke, University of Newcastle Professor Paul Dastoor, Dr Jessica Allen and leadership consultant and clinical psychologist Mariane Power.

With the program for the day falling into place, festival organisers have also set a challenge for exhibitors and participants – and that’s to embrace the event’s sustainability pledge by reducing the event footprint as much as possible.

“Sustainability is at the heart of innovation and it was really important for the festival to not just talk the talk but also walk the walk,” Mr Brennan said.

“Sustainability through innovation is a great tagline but we need to make an impact with our actions.

“This is why we have set the challenge for everyone involved in the festival to support the pledge and reduce their impact as much as possible.

“The great news is this is at the core of what many of our exhibitors and speakers are already doing.

“They are using innovation to solve big problems.

“There’s already a few examples of what is happening in the Hunter.

“MGA Thermal use recycled carbon and aluminium power wires to create their miscibility gap alloys (MGA) to store energy as heat.

“Ampcontrol has formed a partnership with LAVO to create batteries that are fully self-sufficient sources of long duration power storage.

“They deliver energy with a fuel cell and electrolyser combined to create their integrated Hydrogen Energy Storage System (HESS) solution.

“SwitchDin is helping to accelerate the energy transition by building the tools to ensure that distributed energy resources like rooftop solar, batteries and electric vehicles are integrated into the way the grid works.”

Tickets are on sale now at