Formal Launch of InnovationACT 2015

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InnovationACT 2015 launched on Wednesday, the 12th of August, from the John Curtin School of Medical Research, located on the grounds of the Australian National University (ANU). InnovationACT 2015 is many things, mainly both a program to foster and promote innovation and entrepreneurship, and a learning journey. Participants in InnovationACT 2015 will be taken on a comprehensive learning journey, to transform their ideas into validated business models. Towards the conclusion of InnovationACT 2015, selected teams pitch for a share of the fifty thousand dollar funding pool offered. The first workshop of InnovationACT 2015 took place on the 16th of August, in the function rooms of the CBR Innovation Network; subsequent workshops will be held in the same location on nominated Saturdays. Details about individual workshops and links to ticket providers can be found periodically over the 2015 InnovationACT program’s Facebook page.

This year’s InnovationACT program features many new additions and features, one of the most exciting being the opening of the program to all comers, not just students, staff and alumni of Canberra’s major tertiary education institutions. Those who aren’t students, staff or alumni, won’t be able to compete for the grant funding offered. They will however have access to the materials and workshops provided throughout the program. One of the criteria for composite teams, those consisting both people affiliated and removed from Canberra’s tertiary education providers, is that they must be comprised of at least fifty percent students of Canberra’s tertiary education providers. The tertiary education providers involved in this year’s program, being those who an affiliation with allows full entry to the program, are the following: the Australian National University; the University of Canberra; the Canberra Institute of Technology; the University of New South Wales, Canberra; the Academy of Interactive Entertainment and Charles Sturt University

The launch of InnovationACT 2015 featured a showcase, consisting of a series of stalls from which relevant organisations and start-up businesses in the ACT region engaged the launch’s attendees. Upon arrival attendees were greeted by members of InnovationACT 2015’s staff and committee and politely invited to sign in, as to register their attendance. The launch’s attendees were then met by a corridor within the John Curtin School of Medical Research, created through the placement of the individual stalls comprising the launch’s showcase. Attendees progressed through the corridor, engaging spokespeople of the individual organisations and start-up businesses represented. Notable organisations and start-up businesses who were participants in the showcase include the following: the CBR Innovation Network, IP Australia, the Stir Youth Program, the Griffin Accelerator, SignOnSite and OzGuild. Both SignOnsite and OzGuild are past participants and winners of previous InnovationACT programs.

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Having progressed through the corridor, and having engaged those exhibiting within the showcase, attendees of the launch then arrived in a large open area, adjacent to the Vanilla Bean Café, who provided the catering for the event. Attendees mingled and networked amongst themselves, while also approaching the representatives of InnovationACT 2015 present. Following the conclusion of the showcase component of the launch’s proceedings, those attending were directed to Finkel lecture hall, for the formal proceedings of the launch of InnovationACT 2015.

Upon the arrival of all attendees in the Finkel lecture hall, Dr Ratnam, Chairman, InnovationACT, began the launch’s formal proceedings. Dr Ratnam first acknowledged the traditional custodians and owners of the land in the ACT region, the Ngunnawal people. Dr Ratnam then introduced proponents of the InnovationACT programs, Professor Michael Cardew-Hall, Pro Vice-Chancellor, Innovation, Australian National University, and Professor Frances Shannon, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Research, University of Canberra. Both Professor Cardew-Hall and Professor Shannon spoke, in turn, to the audience assembled.

Professor Cardew-Hall spoke first and begun his speech by commenting how the InnovationACT program continues to grow from year to year. Professor Cardew-Hall then spoke about the initial beginnings of the InnovationACT program as the brainchild three ANU PHD Engineering students. Professor Cardew-Hall then spoke of the broadening reach of the InnovationACT programs, the high quality of the businesses and social enterprises arising from previous iterations of the program and the continual evolution of the program. “Each year it has evolved, what we see now is the current evolution,” said Professor Cardew-Hall.

Professor Cardew-Hall also spoke of how the InnovationACT programs acts to foster and further the communities of innovation and entrepreneurship of the ACT. Professor Cardew-Hall also cited the CBR Innovation Network, Entry 29 and the Griffin Accelerator program as key constituents of the ACT’s communities of entrepreneurship and innovation. Professor Cardew-Hall called for thanks and acknowledgement to be given to the mentors of InnovationACT 2015, and implored participants of the program to take full advantage of all opportunities extended to them throughout the program. In concluding his speech to attendees, Professor Cardew-Hall wished those participating in the InnovationACT 2015 luck, and implored them once more to take advantages of all the opportunities presented and those that later become apparent.

Following Professor Cardew-Hall’s speech, Dr Ratnam then invited Professor Shannon to speak to the audience assembled. Professor Shannon commented, as Professor Cardew-Hall had also, on the exponential growth of the InnovationACT programs. Professor Shannon went on to speak about the University of Canberra’s (UC) continued involvement in the InnovationACT programs, and the beneficial outcomes generated for students of UC.     

Professor Shannon also cited, as Professor Cardew-Hall had, the positive contribution of the InnovationACT programs to the ACT’s communities of innovation and entrepreneurship. Professor Shannon, again as Professor Cardew-Hall had, also cited the CBR Innovation Network, Entry 29 and the Griffin Accelerator program as key constituents of the entrepreneurship and innovation communities of ACT.

Following Professor Shannon’s speech to the audience assembled, Dr Ratnam thanked Professor Shannon, before acknowledging the staff and committee members of the InnovationACT 2015. Dr Ratnam then proceeded to delineate InnovationACT 2015 and its learning journey. “What is InnovationACT? InnovationACT is many things, mainly InnovationACT is a learning journey,” said Dr Ratnam. Continuing to describe the InnovationACT programs, Dr Ratnam expounded how the program assists participants in the sequential, cumulative actions and thought processes necessary in bringing an idea to life as either a product, service or social venture.    

Dr Ratnam spoke about how the programs of InnovationACT don’t focus solely on business ideas and how the program acts to encourage social change by encouraging the creation of worthwhile social ventures. Continuing to delineate and expound InnovationACT 2015, Dr Ratnam spoke of the support and direction offered to participants, and the potential for funding to be provided to the teams shortlisted. “We are here to make it happen,” said Dr Ratnam of InnovationACT 2015 and its mandate.   

Dr Ratnam went on to detail the changes to the InnovationACT program in the 2015 iteration of the program and how it differs to previous programs. The main changes Dr Ratnam detailed are the following: the augmentation of the 2014 program’s points system for participating teams; the relocation of the program’s workshops; the increased engagement of mentors with this year’s program; the shortlisting of only twenty teams in this year’s program and the further progression of only ten teams to the pitching stage of this year’s program. The 2015 program features a more comprehensive points system for participating teams, tasks which attract points include engaging with both the particulars of the 2015 program and the social media coverage of the program’s events. Dr Ratnam directed participants to the 2015 program handbook available over the InnovationACT website, before commenting on how the InnovationACT programs act as a gateway to the wider innovation and entrepreneurship eco-systems and communities of the ACT. “You should think of InnovationACT as the first step,” Dr Ratnam told the audience assembled.

Dr Ratnman then invited 2013 InnovationACT participant and winner, Mitchell Harmer, Co-Founder, SignOnSite, to speak to the audience about his experiences in participating in the previous program. Mr Harmer spoke of his prior attempts at establishing his company, before entering InnovationACT 2013. Mr Harmer went on to speak of the virtues and benefits of the InnovationACT and how participating in InnovationACT 2013 helped him prepare for his successful application to the Griffin Accelerator program. Mr Harmer encouraged those present to commit to InnovationACT 2015, “I really encourage you to jump in full heartedly,” said Mr Harmer.

Following Mr Harmer’s speech to attendees, Dr Ratnam then invited Nick and Sebastian Harrison, brothers and Co-Founders, OzGuild, to the speak to the audience. OzGuild were one of the winning teams of InnovationACT 2014. Both Nick and Sebastian spoke of their business, the benefits of InnovationACT, and the gateway to the innovation and entrepreneurship eco-systems and communities of the ACT that it provides.

Following Nick and Sebastian Harrison’s speech to the launch’s attendees, Dr Ratnam thanked the brothers for their speech, before continuing to speak about InnovationACT 2015. Dr Ratnam reminded those present that the first workshop of the InnovationACT 2015 would be held on the coming Saturday, and then briefly reiterated the key points of this year’s program. Dr Ratnam then invited the audience to participate in a networking exercise, performed much like a speed dating function or event, to be led by Mr Camilo Potocnjak Oxman, Brand Development and Committee Advisor, InnovationACT. Those interested in participating were invited to move back into the entrance area of the John Curtin School of Medical Research for the exercise. Dr Ratnam then thanked everyone in attendance, before ending the formal component of the launch’s proceedings.

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Those in the audience who remained for the networking exercise were greeted by a large electronic display showing a stopwatch. Those participating in the exercise were told of the importance of being able to network, and being able to succinctly and quickly disseminate their key message to those they encountered by both design and happenstance. Participants were first given ninety seconds in which to network and mingle in the same fashion as a speed dating event or function, as in to approach one person and then another in turn. After consecutive rounds of the exercise, intermissions were repeatedly called to allow Mr Potocnjak-Oxman to detail the key skills required in networking and one on one purpose driven interactions. Following several ninety second rounds of the exercise, the time allotted for each round was decreased to one minute, as to further engage the participants in the practical application of the theory which had just been taught to them by Mr Potocnjak Oxman.

Following the exercise, acknowledgements and thanks were given by rounds of applause to Mr Potocnjak-Oxman, Dr Ratnam, the committee members and staff of the InnovationACT 2015. Thanks and acknowledgement were also extended to the Vanilla Bean café for the provision of catering, the John Curtin School of Medical Research and the sponsors of the InnovationACT 2015.

As detailed in the above, InnovationACT 2015’s first workshop was held on Saturday, the 15th of August, details of upcoming workshops are available over both the InnovationACT website and Facebook page.        

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