Regional Startups 3 MIN READ

Advance Queensland and Business Models Inc have partnered to design an innovation ecosystem for the Regional Innovation Hubs program. A total of $7.5 million is being put forward to help strengthen links, interaction and engagement across Queensland’s network of regional hubs.

Queensland Minister for Innovation, Science and the Digital Economy, Leeanne Enoch announced last week the details of a $6 million fund for Regional Innovations Hubs, which was based on research by the international strategy design agency, Business Models Inc.

“The Regional Innovation Hubs program will support regional innovation by connecting local efforts, leveraging key regional strengths and lifting the capability of innovative local firms. This is about innovation by startups as well as existing firms and industries,” Enoch said.

An additional $1.5 million from Network Fund was also injected into the program to create a total package of $7.5 million for Queensland’s regional innovation initiative. The Network Fund was announced in 2015 to facilitate collaboration across all regional hubs located in Queensland.

To create the Regional Innovation Hubs program, Business Models Inc investigated the operating system of innovation ecosystems around the world. The investigation also included insights from consultation with key stakeholders from Queensland’s regions to find a common framework of ‘innovation ingredients.’

Ben Hamley, a partner and strategy designer for Australia and New Zealand at Business Models Inc said, “We looked at a variety of different ecosystems, from the emerging super-ecosystem of the Toronto-Waterloo corridor in Ontario, to the digital-enabled ecosystem of Estonia and we found that all have five common features.”

The framework invited applicants to consider the places, spaces, connectivity, leadership, collaboration and communities of practice within their own region. Looking upon those key elements, Business Models Inc determined the best way to achieve innovative outcomes for regional startups.

“It’s tempting to think about innovation as being about new products, or technologies, but it is the systems of value creation, delivery and capture – the business models – that ultimately drive disruptive innovations. This systems-view is what we need to understand how innovation occurs at a regional level,” Hamley said

The investment into Regional Innovation Hubs is an important shift in how governments treat innovation and how ‘soft infrastructure’ can foster collaboration. By investing in the ecology of innovation, Queensland aims to drive long term innovation from its more diverse and regional areas.

“Our investment is designed to draw on this huge potential, through supporting our regional startups and entrepreneurs and funding activities that will enable our regional innovation ecosystems to grow and mature. We want regional innovation activity that will continue to build well beyond this funding commitment,” Enoch said.

Recently Queensland has seen a rise in the number of regional hubs opening across its state. Last week the regional town of Mackay announced it had secured its first coworking hub, Split Spaces. With just under 1,000 square meters of space the hub is set to become Queensland’s largest regional innovation hub.

In March this year the regional town of Ipswich also welcomed its first startup and innovation hub, Fire Station 101. Formerly known as the Ipswich Fire Station, the hub was created to provide entrepreneurs with connections, tools and mentoring to help build the tech startup community in the regional area.

“Being in regional communities is very collaborative, because it’s just us. The amount of support we’ve got from the innovation ecosystem is absolutely incredible. People coming along and asking that wonderful question ‘how can we help?’” said community member Chad Renando.

The Queensland Government has also shown a great commitment to supporting and facilitating innovation throughout the state. In June this year the Government ramped up its funding for its Advance Queensland innovation and jobs plan from $180 million to $405 million. Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the funding was about “accelerating” the initiative and turning it into a “whole-of-government innovation agenda.”

As part of this, the Government last week appointed founder of Blue Sky Alternative Investments, Mark Sowerby to the role of Queensland’s first Chief Entrepreneur. The purpose of the role is to help promote Queensland as a “startup hotspot” both within the state, around Australia, and internationally.

Queensland’s innovation ecosystem framework will now continue to develop through collaborations with both national and international bodies. Over the coming months Business Models Inc will look to testing the program and validating its framework.

“We believe that all innovation is fundamentally a design process, and this project is no different – we’ll be continuing to co-design the program over the coming weeks and look forward to pressure-testing the framework with the feedback from entrepreneurs and citizens across the state,” Hamley said.

Image: Leeanne Enoch. Source: Supplied.

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