Sun 19 Apr 2015 9:07PM

Growing a successful high-tech manufacturing (hardware) sector in Christchurch

AES Anna Elphick (CDC Strategist) Public Seen by 278

How can we retain and grow an internationally successful high-tech manufacturing sector in Christchurch?

  • How can we respond to opportunities and challenges presented by global trends?
  • How can we grow from our strengths, retain value in Christchurch and remain competitive?

For the latest research and key insights read the background paper.

Please remember to refresh the discussion regularly so you can see the latest comments.


Helen Shorthouse, CDC Sun 19 Apr 2015 9:26PM

Morning everyone - great to get this started….I’m excited. We’re going to feed in a few questions over the next week or so to get a wee bit of structure to the discussions.
To start things off - we want to look at business models. In the face of competition from low-cost manufacturing locations such as China and our remote location. What are some successful models for retaining the value chain associated with designing, producing, selling and IP ownership of high-tech products in Christchurch?


Sheralee MacDonald (CDC) Mon 20 Apr 2015 11:17PM

@nigelsharplin, @robertsnoep, @frankowen @petermontgomery @pietbeukman, and others, what are your thoughts on successful models for retaining the value chain associated with designing, producing, selling and IP ownership of high-tech products in Christchurch?


Helen Shorthouse, CDC Tue 21 Apr 2015 10:19PM

Given that we are so far from the main markets – what opportunities do people see for encouraging big players to ‘test’ and develop under the radar? Is this an opportunity or not?


Anna Elphick (CDC Strategist) Wed 22 Apr 2015 12:17AM

We ran a focus group yesterday on the opportunities and challenges facing businesses working in the high-tech manu value chain from Christchurch. There was general agreement about the value / recognition of Christchurch's electrical engineering and design capability internationally. We also have a strong engineering school in Christchurch. Is this a strength worth keeping / developing @hamishlaird, @frankowen, @johnlgreen? How can we grow, leverage and retain this capability in Christchurch?


Jen Rutherford Wed 22 Apr 2015 6:57PM

From a few recent conversations the idea of combining our NZ skills with off shore capabilities has come up...to be globally competitive we need to work with area of he world who have an advantage..perhaps our creative thought + Japanese skills in engineering...partnering in Christchurch. Or our clean green NZPure image + global labour collaborating for a New Zealand company...a few ideas to think about. .


Frank Owen Thu 23 Apr 2015 8:46AM

This question has many aspects, picking on two they would be:

1) Manufacturing is only an activity, albeit a worthy one, that in itself does not create value in the customers eyes. A better understanding of the continually evolving and complex customer world ensures we are more likely to create products, services or solutions that do create value, of which manufacturing may only be a part. If we subscribe to this it would suggest more and better thinking and resources applied to end market collaboration, access to international talent and the commercialisation (go to market) process.
2) Today hardware and devices are increasingly commoditised platforms. They are brought to life by software and services with the intent of delivering a unique value proposition to a customer/market opportunity. With very few exceptions even specialised niche hardware concepts can be copied. However what cannot be copied is the cummulative learning and experience that companies have gained over years delivering valued products and services. What are our unique regional sources of learning and experience and which are the most relevant for future growth markets and customers?


Helen Shorthouse, CDC Thu 23 Apr 2015 10:31PM

Thanks @frankowen and @jenrutherford - so we see there is an opportunity for partnership in a range of ways.

Are there opportunities for encouraging big players from offshore to use Christchurch as a base to ‘test’ and develop innovation under the radar? Could we use some of our niche specialties to promote this?

We've heard through our focus groups and other discussions about the strengths of our power electronics industry. Are there any other niches in Christchurch? What about medical devices....this is a fast growing sub-sector, but Christchurch does not seem to be growing as fast as other parts of NZ (see background paper)(http://www.cdc.org.nz/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Chch-Tech-Sector-Strategy_high-tech-manu-focus-group_info-paper.pdf).


Craig Richardson Sun 26 Apr 2015 2:27AM

How can we respond to opportunities and challenges presented by global trends?

Chc needs to figure out what it's going to be know for and master it. Be know for being awesome at one thing.

How can we grow from our strengths, retain value in Christchurch and remain competitive?

The value is the ideas and the people, not the companies. Wee shouldn't get hung up on keeping successful companies in Chc, the reality is companies are brought and sold and move location every day around the world. Focus on building a small number of very successful companies that will attract more talent and capital to build more companies.


Hamish Laird Mon 27 Apr 2015 11:48PM

Christchurch is already known around the world. It is known as a place where the engineers are capable, relatively well educated and flexible in their working approach. This community of capable people is a big attraction of Christchurch. It is its own Eco-System that attracts and retains people.

Key foundations of the eco-system are
1. The companies who employ and train

2 The university and polytech who provide educated people
3 The test labs, consultants and contractors who provide specialists services and know how
4. The capital providers


Hamish Laird Tue 28 Apr 2015 12:04AM

On a different tack. People say and have said for some time that hardware is a commodity and the differentiation is in the software. This is true and has been true and will be somewhat true in the IoT future. But as the silicon valley maxim says "Hardware is harder" or "hardware is haaard -- It’s called hardware for a reason."

One of the key decisions that everyone needs to decide is whether we want to take the harder hardware track. At the moment it seems Christchurch is still on the hardware track (just).


Hamish Laird Tue 28 Apr 2015 1:30AM

@craigrichardson1 I agree with you that the value is in the ideas and the people. Having Christchurch known for and awesome at one thing is economically risky but also rewarding. (The dairy industry is a nice example). The skilled labour pool in Chch is relatively small so the effect of one company's misfortunes in the labour market are large. Retaining enough variety of companies is important to recruitment and retention. Maybe this means that a large company cannot be headquartered in Christchurch as the labour market is too small.


Hamish Laird Tue 28 Apr 2015 1:38AM

And a final note on why we need to stay with the hardware - This from Marc Andreesen (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marc_Andreessen)


"The other reason for the recent hardware renaissance is the simple way cycles work. Not much hardware innovation has happened, because there have been no hardware startups,” Andreessen says. “So there are a lot of bottled up ideas like drones and robots that just did not get developed in the last 15 years,” he said.

“You see this whenever there’s a missing gap of time where there’s no innovation in a category,” he added. “At some point, it’s like it’s spring-loaded. It just comes back. It comes roaring back.”.

ChCh is a hardware town and now is the dawn of a hardware resurgence.