Celebrating a summer of innovation in the Bay


Register now for the upcoming Summer Celebration of Innovation event: Wednesday 8thFebruary , 4.00pm-6:30pm at the Mount Maunganui Surf Club.

Every year, a number of students from across the country choose Tauranga as a destination for summer internships and research projects, hosted by local business. Priority One’s Summer Open Lab (SOL) programme is a free programme for members that is designed to support these businesses and students through a programme of events which cover professional development, networking, and recognition.

To showcase the projects these students have been working on and to celebrate their success, along with the innovative businesses they have been working with, Priority One is holding the Summer Celebration of Innovation in early February 2023. The event will also serve as a platform for the launch of the NZ Hi-Tech awards launch, will open this year’s Young Innovator Awards (YIA) programme, and will put a spotlight on the emerging talent within our local ecosystem, as we grow as a destination for innovation.

Priority One Summer Open Lab 22/23

The Summer Open Lab (SOL) is a programme for students working on summer projects and internships within companies across Tauranga and the Western Bay of Plenty. Developed by Priority One, and delivered in collaboration with local businesses, the University of Waikato and Callaghan Innovation, it has three key focuses:

  • Provide students a great learning experience in the region, through professional and career development, and assist building connections with peers from different host companies, disciplines, and universities.
  • Help business support the students and provide professional development during the busy summer months.
  • Grow connectivity in our region by encouraging students and companies to host summer projects, and to showcase these with the rest of the community in Tauranga and the Western Bay of Plenty

An example of the SOL programme is a design thinking workshop we held in December 2022. Led by Karl Stevenson, a local design thinking facilitator (and guru!), 28 students were introduced to the concept of design thinking in a fast-paced three hour sprint workshop, covering the theory and practice through hands-on and tangible challenges.

Design thinking is a widely used approach to human-centred problem solving. It is a skill set that is growing in use and value across many different types of organisations and sectors. Karl guided the students through the process, which gave them the opportunity to develop and test concepts, learn about empathy and feedback, and overcome obstacles using a pragmatic and structured method to reach the desired outcomes. The first task saw students split into groups and challenged them with some interesting resources to design, build and assemble the highest free-standing tower – using tape, string, wooden skewers and…a marshmallow. The results were both hilarious and inspiring, with many of the groups coming to the realisation that jumping into a task without taking the time to understand the problem, could bring about unexpected consequences as a project nears completion.

“Design thinking, or human centred design, is fast becoming an essential skill for business” says Shane Stuart, Innovation Manager for Priority One.  “Through this workshop, we hope to help the student’s understand the value of understanding users, prototyping and testing, and other elements of design, as well as develop specific skills relevant to their work over the summer”.

The second, and main task, had students get into pairs and carry out a fast but thorough series of design thinking steps to design, and ultimately construct, a personalised bag or wallet for their partner. Though time was against them, the students were quick to grasp the concept of design thinking; taking steps to understand their partner’s needs, challenge assumptions, redefine problems and create innovative solutions which they then prototyped and tested.

Now in it’s sixth year running, the SOL programme has been well received by both the students and the businesses involved, for the extra layer of support it provided to summer students. If you are interested in learning more about the SOL, or would like to participate and contribute as a business or organisation, contact Shane Stuart: shane@priorityone.co.nz

Summer Celebration of Innovation 2023

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