The CBR Innovation Network’s website defines the network as ‘… an open collaboration of innovators, dedicated to developing a thriving and diverse innovation eco-system within the Australian Capital Territory (ACT).’ To those beginning and running businesses, the CBR Innovation Network is a great source of low-cost to free, high level services. Interacting with the CBR Innovation Network, and Canberra’s ‘innovation eco-system’, is of mutual benefit to both the local business community and individual businesses. The CBR Innovation Network is not yet a year old, but already offers first rate opportunities that are not to be missed.
This initial article provides a broad overview of the network and the particulars necessary to appreciate its place in Canberra’s ‘innovation eco-system’.
Who, What, Where, Why?
The CBR Innovation Network (CBRIN) is a new creation, developed last year out of a workshop held by the ACT Government’s Economic Development Directorate, to devise new approaches to fostering innovation in Canberra. The workshop, with key stakeholders in attendance, recommended a network be established to connect high growth businesses with resources to promote growth. Despite being less than a year old the CBR Innovation Network has enjoyed many successes.
The CBR Innovation Network is located on the fifth floor of the ACT Government Health Building, One Moore St, Civic. The CBR Innovation Network accommodates the Entry 29 co-working space, the Griffin Accelerator program and the KILN Incubator. The CBR Innovation Network makes good use of the space allotted, hosting along with Entry 29, the Griffin Accelerator program, and other innovative third parties, a constant stream of events, workshops and seminars.
The current CEO of the CBR Innovation Network is Dr Sarah Pearson. The CBR Innovation Network is comprised of five foundation members: ANU, UC, NICTA, UNSW Canberra and CSIRO. Each of the foundation members holds a position on the board of the CBR Innovation Network, and all of the foundation members contribute to the network’s budget. The CBR Innovation Network takes on interns and volunteers from its three university foundation members, and cross promotes through all of its foundation members. The strategic direction of the CBR Innovation Network is informed by the foundation members, leading to a thoroughly considered approach to Canberra’s ‘innovation ecosystem’. The ACT Government is a key player in the CBR Innovation Network, providing the base funding for five years, and informing key decisions and organisational concerns. The contributions of member institutions are also set to a five year period. The operating budget of the CBR Innovation Network is reflective of its registration as a not for profit company, and the community-serving nature of its mandate.
Confusion may be generated when one considers the efforts of other organisations in the local area, acting to achieve some of the same goals. The CBR Innovation Network complements pre-existing support structures for local businesses, providing a focal point for innovation in Canberra. The CBR Innovation Network, in extending its own resources to businesses and directing businesses to the opportunities offered by other groups, provides an overarching framework of connectivity between relevant organisations.
How the CBR Innovation Network Achieves Its Goals
The CBR innovation Network acts to foster innovation and Canberra’s ‘innovation eco-system’. Establishing and mapping an ‘online eco-system’ is one way in which the CBR Innovation Network fosters innovation. Colin Anstie, Head of Marketing, CBR Innovation Network, defines the ‘online eco-system’ as the footprint generated by Canberra’s ‘persona groups’ (Canberra’s start-ups, founders, mentors, investors, corporates and sponsors). One of the core pillars of the CBR Innovation Network is to connect with these ‘persona groups’, and to attract other potential stakeholders. The CBR Innovation Network connects with ‘persona groups’, and other potential stakeholders, through ascertaining the relationships between relevant organisations, promoting its services over social media, networking and running programs. Mr Anstie describes these, and other efforts by the CBR Innovation Network, as being “… geared towards making a tangible difference to businesses.”
The CBR Innovation Network also achieves tangible differences to businesses through training, mentorship, and connecting businesses with grants and investment funding. Plans exist to revamp the CBR Innovation Network’s website to include features such as a map detailing the relationship between the groups that constitute the local ‘innovation ecosystem’, and an expanded services framework tool.
How the CBR Innovation Network Attracts Investment
Much in the same way entrepreneurs pitch to prospective investors, the CBR Innovation Network pitches to draw investment to Canberra. Pitching an entire city is a difficult task; the CBR Innovation Network attempts to attract investors from both Australia and abroad. The CBR Innovation Network, in providing an overarching connectivity to Canberra’s businesses and entrepreneurs, is in a well-informed position to both market and promote Canberra.
How the CBR Innovation Network Connects with Canberra’s Business and Start-Up Communities
The CBR Innovation Network approaches, and is approached by a range of organisations. The CBR Innovation Network currently maintains active contact with fourteen co-working spaces across Australia. The CBR innovation Network encourages competition in business services. The large number of connections made by the CBR Innovation Network help the network to provide many points of reference to businesses. As a not for profit company, the CBR Innovation Network offers objective, neutral advice to businesses. The CBR Innovation Network invites potential stakeholders to approach and interact with staff, the goal being to further develop its wide reaching support networks.
The CBR Innovation Network’s Government Funding
The CBR Innovation Network receives one million dollars in ACT Government funding annually. It appears that the ACT Government wished to consolidate its varying contributions to local innovation and entrepreneurship; at one point there were nine different business support initiatives and programs, individually funded in varying degrees by public monies.
Involvement of Government Figures
The CBR Innovation Network receives a lot of attention and support from prominent ACT Government personalities and officials. Kate Lundy, retired ACT Labor Senator, makes regular use of the Entry 29 co-working space, in pursuing her business interests. ACT Chief Minister, Andrew Barr, has been heavily involved in the formation and progress of the CBR Innovation Network. Mr Barr has been a key player in launching and maintaining the CBR Innovation Network, announcing new developments from the network’s offices.
Calls have been made for government to become more efficient, to innovate, and to actively engage with and support local businesses. Mr Barr has actively broached and acted on these concerns, championing innovation and the CBR Innovation Network. Through actively addressing concerns over Government practices, and supporting the CBR Innovation Network, Mr Barr is paving the way for innovation and its benefits in Canberra.
Other prominent current and retired ACT Government figures make regular use of the CBR Innovation Network’s space and services. Notable figures include: Executive Director, Innovation, Trade and Investment, Ian Cox; former Director of Business ACT, Geoff Keogh and Senior Manager, Innovation Team, Innovation, Trade and Investment, Glen Hassett. These prominent figures help to bring opportunities to the CBR Innovation Network, using the network’s space and services when hosting trade missions, sessions, promotions and other events.
The KILN Incubator
The CBR Innovation Network recently launched the KILN Incubator, a business program, supporting high-growth potential entrepreneurial ventures in the ACT. The KILN Incubator was brought about by a partnership between the CBR Innovation Network, the Griffin Accelerator program and ATP Innovations, and the support of the ACT State Government. The business founders and entrepreneurs who participate in the KILN Incubator business growth program will receive various forms of support and services. Visit the KILN Incubator’s website for further details about the services offered.
Events, Programs and Seminars
The CBR Innovation Network, and Entry 29, host a range of events, programs and seminars aimed at encouraging a community of entrepreneurship and innovation. Both organisations actively engage groups in the local community that are often underrepresented in business and entrepreneurship. In its short life span the CBR Innovation Network has already begun to promote the participation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in business. The CBR Innovation Network, and Entry 29, have also actively engaged both Canberra’s women and school children, promoting potential careers in the STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths), entrepreneurship and business to these groups. These community orientated initiatives are innovative, both in design and effect, many organisations and programs in other localities do not actively attempt to remove the barriers and impediments in business and entrepreneurship.
The CBR Innovation Network runs a number of programs to help Canberra’s local business community.
Funding for these programs has not yet been confirmed for the 2015 financial year, as such they are referred to in the past tense.
- The Youth Entrepreneurship Summer Sessions (YESS) program was focused on providing support for youth in entrepreneurship. The YESS program was a flow on of InnovationACT, the winning teams from the InnovationACT 2014 program were given office space in the E29 co-working space for three months during the summer.
- The Public Sector Launch Pad (PSLP) program helped public servants transition into entrepreneurship.
- The SME Growth program was open to companies which met set criteria, one of the main criteria being an annual turnover of more than one million dollars. Twelve applicants were selected each year from a long waiting list, an audit was performed to ensure that businesses met the criteria, and free consultancy services were provided.
- Plans exist to expand the CBR Innovation Network’s efforts in promoting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s engagement with business and entrepreneurship into an ongoing program.
Other Initiatives of the CBR Innovation Network
The CBR Innovation Network interacts with embassies, internationally and locally, to create global supply chains, helping to bring more investment and innovation to Canberra.
The CBR Innovation Network has an Innovation Community Forum, a collection of ambassadors and supporters who promote the network and interact with Canberra’s ‘innovation eco-system’.
Future articles will detail how to take advantage of the CBR Innovation Network’s programs, events and services.