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The Vanguard: Innovating South Australia’s future

Business

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While dark clouds hover over South Australia’s economy and jobs outlook, there are some rays of potential prosperity starting to shine through.

As commentators have observed, the large scale employers in traditional manufacturing are going and not coming back but there are smaller, successful start-ups emerging that have the potential to collectively make a significant economic contribution.

The extent of this largely untold story is captured in the submission by Regional Development Australia Adelaide (RDAA) and Adelaide City Council to the Australian Technologies Competition.

Indeed, the story the submission tells is so impressive that the Greater Adelaide Region is one of only three finalists vying for the Innovative Regions Award – the winner of which will be announced in Sydney on 20 October.

The submission details the expertise and resources that exist in South Australia and the extensive collaboration that is occurring on a daily basis in Adelaide between entrepreneurial individuals, companies, councils, universities and the different levels of government.

“Greater Adelaide has a very rich ecosystem of support for new ventures,” the submission says.

This support includes:

“Support infrastructure and programs are geographically diverse with the Polaris Centre in the North and Tonsley in the South complementing many of the facilities based in the city centre.

“The Tonsley facility supports cluster development initiatives and boosts knowledge transfer between research institutions and industry (while) the mentoring program at the Polaris Centre links new entrepreneurs with experienced business owners.”

The submission notes the critical mass of medical research now concentrated at SAHMRI, and the collaboration of industry with Adelaide University (ThIncLab Commercialisation Accelerator), Flinders University (Venture Dorm and PhD Speed Dating), State Government-UniSA Venture Catalyst program, and Adelaide University’s eChallenge vehicle for commercialising research and celebrating success.

“Today local businesses and business people are far more engaged with researchers than ever before,” the submission says.

There is also extensive support available for entrepreneurs looking to start a business and commercialise their ideas.

“The widespread use of lean, startup methodologies encourages market validation at a very early stage in venture planning and product development.  Experienced business mentors provide valuable market related feedback to entrepreneurs throughout the many programs such as Venture Dorm, Mega, SAYES, Enterprise Workshop and the ThIncLab Commercialisation Accelerator program.”

The submission adds: “The Adelaide Entrepreneurship Forum has galvanized the support of 270 individual supporters from the entrepreneurial community, government and industry that are all keen to see Adelaide succeed as a celebrated centre of innovation and enterprise”.

“Giving visibility to the ecosystem that already existed and facilitating a dialogue between the key players has been incredibly powerful.

“A Startup Adelaide Alliance has since been formed that brings these people together to share what they are working on and seek help from others in the community.  Both entrepreneurs and investors are part of this network and this has created opportunities for greater awareness of what each are looking for.

“New Venture Institute, Innovyz and the UniSA Centre for Business Growth are particularly active in building links to national and international mentors and investors.  Adelaide City Council has been running a series of business growth breakfasts with international speakers brought to Adelaide by the Centre for Business Growth as part of its program delivery.

“The emergence of new programs has been particularly significant over the last two years.  Because of the mapping (of programs) there is clarity about what is already being done and new programs are generally well-differentiated from existing programs.

“Many in the ecosystem now talk to aspiring entrepreneurs about pathways to help them choose the right program at the right time to progress their venture.  New programs are also addressing the need to introduce secondary school students to the idea of self-employment and entrepreneurship as legitimate career options.”

The submission says the Adelaide Entrepreneurship Forum in June 2013 identified “the fear of failure as a significant barrier to entrepreneurial ambition”.

“As a result, two members of the entrepreneurial community established an inaugural ‘Totally Blew It’ event that celebrates the spirit of adventure that leads to failed projects and, sometimes, failed enterprises but also valuable learnings.

“An audience of 150 people shared in the stories of 15 brave participants who spoke with humour of those things that they got wrong.  The format worked well and it will be used again to reduce the stigma of failure and change attitudes toward risk and learning.”

The submission highlights the role that innovation is now playing in the economic fabric of the State and its future potential contribution – a fact well understood by those at the heart of these initiatives.

Dr Felicity-Ann Lewis, chairperson of Regional Development Australia Adelaide Metropolitan, says “Adelaide has worked hard over the last few years to understand and enhance our innovation ecosystem and has now achieved a remarkable level of collaboration and coordination across a rich landscape of support.”

The Director of the New Venture Institute at Flinders University, Matt Salier, told The Vanguard that “Adelaide is uniquely placed to continue to transform through innovation because of its size and connectedness”.

Matt Salier, Director of the New Venture Institute (NVI) at Flinders, said Flinders can now work better with the State Government and Prospect Silicon Valley on innovative clean tech solutions.

Matt Salier, director of the New Venture Institute at Flinders University

“People are very open to working together to achieve something that is greater than the sum of its parts. As a result, Adelaide, and South Australia generally, is punching above its weight in addressing intractable problems. While not there yet, we are well on the way and continue to develop the capacity to succeed as an innovative State,” Salier said.

Manager of Business SA’s Threesixty Business Coaching Program, Sarah Lindblom, says “South Australia has the potential to become an incubator of entrepreneurial small business”.

“There is a great ecosystem of small business assistance and programs to assist the development and growth of productive small business. These small businesses self-employ and employ others and could provide opportunities for workers exiting industries such as traditional manufacturing,” Lindblom told The Vanguard.

The Australian Technologies Competition organisers describe finalists in the competition as those regions “that provide the most supportive environment for SME emerging technology companies”.

“It is not about scale but rather about the quality of the innovation ecosystem that has been built,” the organisers say.

The Greater Adelaide Region has made its case.

While the winner of the competition will be known on 20 October, the benefits of the innovation and start-up support already underway in Adelaide will prevail long beyond that date.

The Vanguard is a weekly InDaily column highlighting innovation in South Australian business.

 

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