Think HBR

Reimagined Hunter festival an incubator for innovators

Festival keynote speakers Mark Bouris, Professor Kelvin Kong and Lisa Emerson
The Hunter Innovation Festival has announced a new-look lineup of events for its 2023 program, with the previous oneday format now extending beyond Newcastle and covering an exciting three-week program.
The festival will include an Innovation Roadshow, covering Muswellbrook, Singleton, Port Stephens, Maitland and Lake Macquarie from October 9 to 13, a one-day Conference and Exhibition in Newcastle on October 19, and an Action Summit to develop an actionable project plan with measurable outcomes on October 27.
Hunter Innovation Festival Chair, Alex Brennan, said it was important the festival showcases the talents of the entire region, not just in Newcastle.
“We have people right throughout the Hunter and across all industries – from manufacturing and mining to aerospace and agriculture – making brilliant regenerative changes.
“A lot of the time they don’t even realise how innovative they are until an opportunity like the Hunter Innovation Festival comes along and they have a moment to reflect and listen to their peers.
“The festival aims to inspire businesses, innovators, and investors, sparking conversations and facilitating collaborations that lead to innovative outcomes for the region. Ultimately, we want the Hunter to be recognised as a knowledge sharing economy inspiring new age ideas and inspiring productivity,” Mr Brennan said.
The Festival launch in August was aptly held in front of a Port of Newcastle electric vehicle and one of two hybrid mobile harbour cranes, the first of their type in Australia.
“Port of Newcastle is proud to be the platinum sponsor of this year’s Hunter Innovation Festival. It’s the people, and the innovative and vibrant culture we have in the Hunter region that will drive the success of exciting projects like our clean energy precinct, deepwater container terminal and offshore wind. We are really excited to be part of an event that brings those people together so that we collaborate to create a thriving Hunter community,” said Port of Newcastle’s Chief Commercial Officer, Simon Byrnes.
Other sponsors include: Gold Sponsors Out of the Square, the University of Newcastle and City of Newcastle; Silver Sponsors AGL, ICT and Phillips Ormonde Fitzpatrick; and Bronze Sponsors Dantia, Yokogawa, Hall & Willcox, Hunter Water, Ampcontrol, AusIndustry, Robotic Systems and Newy Tech People.
The one-day conference and exhibition at Newcastle City Hall on October 19 will feature a line-up of presenters and exhibitors from government and industry, with topics ranging from attracting and retaining talent, transitioning to renewable energy, and using technology and innovation to solve global and local issues.
Australian business and finance leader and Executive Chairman of Yellow Brick Road Home Loans Mark Bouris AM, NSW Modern Manufacturing Commissioner Lisa Emerson, and 2021 Newcastle Citizen of the Year and 2023 NAIDOC Person of the Year, Professor Kelvin Kong, will lead the keynote sections of the conference, each addressing topics that are certain to spark discussion and collaboration.
Hunter Innovation Festival Chair Alex Brennan says the festival is thrilled to bring together three such outstanding people who have each accomplished incredible personal and professional achievements across diverse sectors.
“We’re excited to have such a high calibre of speakers headline this year’s event. Mark Bouris AM has been at the forefront of Australian entrepreneurship for decades having established Australia’s second largest non-bank mortgage lender Wizard Home Loans, while Lisa Emerson is the first ever Modern Manufacturing Commissioner for NSW and Australia. We’re also thrilled to have Professor Kelvin Kong attend. He is no doubt one the Hunter region’s most outstanding individuals who will bring a wealth of insight into the future of medical research in our region and across the nation more broadly,” Mr Brennan said.
Mark Bouris AM said he is excited innovation to cover topics ranging from leadership, success and resilience.
“The growth of the Hunter region is clear, as one of the country’s largest regional economies. Within this, the innovation and development of complex industries, such as medical research, technology, and education, all contribute to the communities continued growth. It will be interesting to hear first-hand about this development and what factors have attributed to these advancements, whilst looking ahead to the future of the region.
“The Hunter Innovation Festival presents some amazing opportunities to learn about new emerging technologies and their effect on our commercial landscape and relevant industries, and it is also an opportunity to showcase the amazing level of innovation within the region. On top of this, I am a serial learner, and love learning about new innovations and technological advancements, and it is especially interesting to see this in a regional community,” Mr Bouris said.
Professor Kong will be discussing the field of healthcare and how it is experiencing a transformative shift through continuous innovation, and the profound impact this innovation has on health - spanning from advanced medical technologies and treatments to novel healthcare delivery models.
“I’m looking forward to discussing the synergy between technology and medicine, and how breakthroughs in artificial intelligence, telemedicine, genomics, and medical devices are enhancing diagnostic accuracy, personalising treatment plans, and improving patient outcomes,” Mr Kong said.
Hunter iF will announce the full conference schedule imminently, featuring speakers from Hunter based companies who are leading the way in the technology, renewables, manufacturing and innovation space.
“Innovation isn’t just about creating new things, it’s about applying what you have learnt in different ways to achieve different outcomes than you have before. We have put together a diverse and engaging line up of speakers that will inspire, challenge and motivate the crowd to do just that,” Mr Brenan said.
For the latest information and tickets for the Hunter Innovation Festival visit