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Vodafone announces innovation hub for Christchurch

Vodafone artist's mock up_Chch office
TECHNOLOGY PLAYPEN: Vodafone expects to move into the new four-level building in Tuam St in early 2016.
PHOTO: Supplied.

Vodafone has given Christchurch’s rebuild a shot in the arm with its plans to build a $50m South Island headquarters in the city centre.

The company has announced it will be the anchor tenant in the city’s innovation precinct with a new four-storey building designed to bring its 350 Christchurch staff into one location, and with capacity to expand to accommodate up to 900 workers in the future.

Vodafone New Zealand chief executive Russell Stanners, who was in Christchurch for the announcement, said the building would set a new standard for working spaces in a smartphone-dominated world.

Expected to open in early 2016, it would be the most technologically advanced building in New Zealand, Stanners said.

Employees would be able to use smartphones as access keys and there would be no need for paper as everything would be digitally connected.

Vodafone ceo Russell Stanners
Vodafone chief executive Russell Stanners.
PHOTO: Olivia Bascand.

The Vodafone office,  in partnership with Callaghan Innovation, will also house an innovation hub modelled on the company’s incubators in the Silicon Valley, Milan, London, Cairo and Dusseldorf.

In tandem with the company’s announcement, Tertiary Education Minister Steven Joyce announced that the government would invest $28.6m over the next four years to develop three new ICT graduate schools, with the first expected to open in the Christchurch Innovation Precinct next year.

Joyce said the graduate schools would help address skills shortages in the rapidly growing ICT industry, and the Christchurch school would be an opportunity for the city to not only rebuild but to do something on another level.

Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel said the announcement was “hugely positive” for the whole of Christchurch.

“Not only will it catalyse the whole of the innovation precinct it also bodes well for the future of postgraduate students as well.”

In its release, the government said the ICT schools would be funded for education, research and collaborative initiatives to attract top students and academics and connect them closely with high-value high-tech firms.

Head of computer science and software engineering at the University of Canterbury, Dr Antonija Mitrovic was taken by surprise by the announcement, and was keen to see more details about how the schools would operate with other tertiary providers.

The Tertiary Education Commission, with support from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, will manage a call for proposals from education providers and their industry partners to develop and operate the ICT Graduate Schools.

_Kyle Knowles