Get ready, Tauranga – the Groundswell Festival of Innovation is back in town from August 27 to September 2. UNO sat down with event organiser Stacey Jones to get the lowdown on this year’s incredible international line-up.

WORDS Laura Tuck / PHOTOS Richard Robinson

This year we’re really ramping things up,” says Groundswell’s Stacey Jones. “But it’s not just about selling tickets to events, it’s about bringing together the amazing people and organisations we have locally to spark conversations, collaborations and connections, and help push the city forward.”

Tauranga is starting to make waves in the innovation space, so the Groundswell concept sprang to life quite naturally in 2017 as a way to connect new and established events, thought leaders and grassroots organisations with a common goal of fostering innovation.

“I was working with Priority One early last year and sat down with chief operating officer Greg Simmonds and Blythe Rees-Jones, an innovation and design coach, to have a chat about the amazing innovation ecosystem that was bubbling away in Tauranga,” says Stacey. “From start-ups and schools to community organisations and corporates, there were people everywhere pushing the boundaries of innovation, and we wanted to bring them together through an event that would create a shared identity.”

They were on to a good thing. More than 5000 people took part in the inaugural week-long Groundswell festival last year, sharing their knowledge, skills and experience with others through a varied programme of events at different venues across the city.

“Before we knew it, we had over 30 events with speakers from Nike to NASA – everyone was buzzing!” says Stacey. “This year, we want to celebrate our culture of innovation, which is fundamental to our region’s future as a centre of innovation excellence on a regional and international scale. It’s also crucial to our ability to attract skilled talent, organisations and investment.”

Groundswell provides a unique opportunity for professional development across every sector, from business and education to health, iwi, agriculture, sport and the arts. “Innovation can come from anywhere – it’s not just the tech side of things,” says Stacey. “We wanted to create a festival that plays to our local strengths and shows that new ideas can come from anywhere and anyone.

“We have a huge programme this year, including technology and social innovation summits, Cleantech, the Young Innovator Awards, and a ‘little inventors’ workshop at Our Place. We’re also taking over a laneway as part of a competition with the New Zealand Institute of Architects. People will be challenged to drum up ideas of what the laneway could become, then we’ll bring the ideas to life during the festival and use the laneway to host events.

“Tauranga is big on collaboration and has a collective heart – people genuinely want to work together, which you don’t find in all cities,” says Stacey. “We don’t know what the future of our region looks like, but we know it depends on the ingenious minds of today.”


7am to 9.30am, August 29
SUAN YEO – Head of education, Google
Speaker at the Young Innovator Awards forum

8.30am to 6pm, August 29
Simon Kennedy – Chief innovation officer, Air New Zealand
Speaker at Rhubarb

1pm to 2.30pm, August 29
Jodie Tipping – Chairman, Cucumber
Speaker at the Business Women’s Network lunch: From earthquakes to life savings – innovating with your back against the wall

9am to midday, August 31
ROGIER SIMONS – Managing director, PowerSmart
Speaker at Race to the Future: Gigafactories, flying cars and smart poles

August 28 to September 1
DONNA DINSDALE – Bachelor of Creative Industries fashion leader, Toi-Ohomai Institute of Technology
Curator of the Resist, Imagine, Create exhibition

Learn more about the festival and get your tickets at: