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ANIMFX 2015: looking to the future

Sometimes it takes attendance at a conference like Animfx to remind us of what New Zealand can achieve. From Richard Taylor’s WW100 Gallipoli exhibition at Te Papa to Thunderbirds Are Go the range is spectacular and all were on display during the opening Animfx showreel. Notwithstanding that the conference itself started 10 minutes late due to technical issues.

Steven Joyce (Minister of Economic Development) noted it was the second time he had opened the conference since it started in 2005. He referred to massive, massive, massive lifts in technology over that period. His own background in commercial radio saw him introduce a range of new technology such as digital storage and programming. There is now, he noted, as much processing power available in his phone as was then in his entire computer system.

New Zealand is at the forefront of technological advances, Joyce claimed. The Technology Investment Network’s top 100 companies (TIN100) have increased turnover by 7% in one year. To better track the tech sectors, the index itself is being expanded to 200 companies. Exports from these companies are worth $6.5 billion – number three behind diary and tourism. The digital media component of the tech sector is running ahead of the curve, growing 17% last year.

New Zealand is the second easiest place in the world to do business worldwide and the rollout of ultra-fast-broadband is now up to 56% with 16% uptake. This, Joyce believed, is very good for a country with such diverse population centres.

The Minister emphasised the importance of R&D, going offshore and skills. It is hard to get IT graduates and the government has recently established three new ICT graduate schools to deal with this. He also acknowledged other private sector initiatives such as crowd funding, BizDojo and the MindLab by Unitec.

Two things we need to thing about further – the importance of IP and thinking laterally.

Animation and gaming have uses much wider than entertainment. For example, in Auckland the MedTech Centre of Research in medical technology (five universities) is using devices to sense levels of activity in patients and using animation to model heart, circulation systems, brains etc for treatment purposes.

Chris Whelan, newly appointed CEO of Wellington Regional Economic Development Agency (WREDA) also encouraged the 150+ attendees to think about designing incredible futures, not just incredible products.

The NZ Games, Animation and Visual Effects (NZGAV) Trust’s Jos Ruffel updated participants on the next steps for the Animfx event.

Animfx was first run in 2005 by Positively Wellington Business (PWB) after a group of animation enthusiasts decided they needed a way of sharing ideas. The Trust and its international advisory board were established to provide support to PWB and, in recent years, its successors Grow Wellington and now WREDA. The Trust is now being wound down. Its remaining funds will be used towards a scholarship in the late Euan Frizzell’s name (New Zealand’s father of animation) for fourth year animation students at Massey University.

Going forward WREDA will assume greater responsibility for running Animfx.

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