University of Melbourne


New co-working space opens for social enterprises and not-for-profits in Melbourne

2:03AM | Thursday, 13 February

A new co-working space has opened its doors in Melbourne for social enterprises and not-for-profit firms.   Makeshift Studio was founded by humanitarian engineers Julian O’Shea and Huy Nguyen, who wanted to create a space to support social enterprises.   “It’s bringing social entrepreneurship into a social space which invigorates us,” Nguyen told StartupSmart.   Nguyen is the founder and chief executive of Enable Development, which seeks to address the challenges of disability, while O’Shea is the director of Engineers Without Borders Australia, a group that works to address lack of access to clean water, sanitation and other basic infrastructure.   Nguyen says he wants to demonstrate that there is value in doing good.   He says he has done a lot of volunteering but is now more interested in establishing sustainable businesses with a social impact.   The studio is already making a mark in the social innovation community after winning the Foundation for Young Australians PitchUp competition and receiving a $20,000 prize pack including a trip to the Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship and electronics equipment sponsored by Sony.     As well as hosting other enterprises, the studio plans to seed and lead its own social impact projects.   Its first project is Open Bike, an accessible community bike share system being developed with the University of Melbourne.   O’Shea says in a statement that their research found that emerging social businesses and not-for-profit start-ups want to work collaboratively and have little funding for office space.   “This is our way of helping them kick start their projects,” he says.   The studio is located in a renovated old bicycle warehouse in Capel St, West Melbourne.

Microsoft announces $8 million partnership for natural user interface technology research centre

12:19AM | Monday, 9 December

Microsoft, the University of Melbourne and the Victorian government have joined forces to open an $8 million research centre for social new interactive technologies that use voice, touch, gesture, gaze and physical movement.   The Microsoft Centre for Social Natural User Interface (NUI) Research will have funded positions for researchers exploring the social uses of technology that enables digital products to use physical human engagement more intuitively and naturally.   NUIs, such as Wii game consoles and Xbox Kinect, moved away from the desktop and mouse to use direct physical engagement such as capturing voice, gesture, touch and even brain recognition with sensors that interact with technologies.   Centre director Professor Frank Vetere, who also heads up the Interaction Design Lab at Melbourne University, told StartupSmart the centre would push the emerging field of NUI design towards reaching its social potential.   “The recent explosion of social media shows the extraordinary human desire to use technology for our own personal needs and interaction, so there is definitely a growing role for social NUIs,” Vetere says. “The centre is not just about the fun stuff like Facebook. It’s also the way we’re social in the workplace, in schools, in hospitals, and how we relate in public spaces.”   This is Microsoft’s first NUI centre focused on the social uses of the emerging technology. Vetere says there is ample opportunity for Australia to become a leader in this emerging tech industry.   “Clearly this is an opportunity to extend the thinking and knowledge happening elsewhere. We’ve got enormous strong support with Microsoft, so we can clearly leverage and contribute to their wider NUI work,” Vetere says.   The research centre is intended to explore the emerging field of how technology can encourage positive social and collaborative behaviours. Resources have been allocated for three years.   In a statement, Microsoft Research vice president Tony Hey said the three-way partnership was great news for achieving their goals.   “This is a world class research centre, located at a world class university in a forward thinking state,” Hey said. “I am confident the centre will open the floodgates to innovative social uses of NUI. The potential for social NUI will only be limited by our imagination.”   The 28 supported academics and PhD students will have the opportunity to spend time at other Microsoft research centres such as Cambridge, Beijing, and Redmond in the US.

Marita Cheng

11:24AM | Friday, 8 November

  Business Name: 2Mar Robotics Age: 24 State: Victoria   Marita Cheng has been passionate about robotics for a long time.   Even as a child, the founder and chief executive of 2Mar Robotics would think about how cool it would be if she had a robot to help her with chores around the house.   Now Cheng, last year’s Young Australian of the Year for her work establishing Robogals Global and encouraging girls to study engineering, is rapidly making her childhood dream a reality.   2Mar Robotics is building a voice-controlled robotic arm to help quadriplegics with tasks such as picking up a drink or pressing a pedestrian crossing button to cross the street.   So far they’ve secured $100,000 worth of orders and plan to ship next year.   “Eventually I want to make robots that are accessible to consumers, that are useable for consumers in their everyday lives,” she says.   Cheng, who’s studying a double degree in mechatronics and computer science at the University of Melbourne, says she was inspired to create a robotics company after seeing others being formed in garages by people who’d dropped out of university.   “I thought if they can, I can too,” she says.   2Mar Robotics is part of the Melbourne Accelerator Program through Melbourne University.   Cheng says the advice she has for other young entrepreneurs is to believe in themselves.   “Even if other people don’t believe in you, it doesn’t matter as long as you believe in yourself.”   Related articles about Marita Robotic arms and cleaners take out top honours at Tech23 Finalists announced for pitching conference at leading technology conference Tech23 Australia’s top 10 female start-up entrepreneurs

Melbourne University announces accelerator program intake, calls for unis to do more for start-ups

7:13AM | Tuesday, 2 July

A robotic arm maker, colour-matching database and a neurological medical devise start-up are among six start-ups to join the Melbourne Accelerator Program (MAP), hosted by the University of Melbourne’s School of Engineering and the Faculty of Business and Economics.   Rohan Workman, manager of MAP, told StartupSmart they had a tough job picking only six companies from 53 applications.   “The reason we chose these teams were these people had the best chance of making their ideas work. The fact these guys were already out there and taking strides forward with their business and getting a bit of traction really worked in their favour,” he says.   These are the companies chosen for the accelerator:   The Price Geek, a bargain-seeking search engine; Ebla, an online publishing platform for legal professionals; Client Catalyst, a mobile marketing and inbound client call service; SwatchMate, a colour-matching database service; 2Mar Robotics, a maker of robotic arms for people with quadriplegia; and Cortera Neurotechnologies, an implantable medical device for diagnosing incurable neurological conditions company.   At least one member of the team needs to be studying at the University of Melbourne, recent alumni or staff from the engineering and IT, and business schools to be eligible for the program.   The entrepreneurial fellowships provide office space, funding and mentoring for the start-ups.   Workman says universities are perfectly placed to do more to boost the entrepreneurial ecosystem. He says he expects to see them doing more with their resources.   “We’re only now starting to see how universities can help start-ups, but universities can and will do more and more. It’s not a zero sum game, we’re keen to see more universities running similar programs,” he says.   “We (universities) have a unique set of assets including an alumni network, connections to industry and government, expertise across the campus and a brand. All of this is really helpful for a start-up.”   Workman says the buzz around entrepreneurial activity at Melbourne University is really rewarding.   “Guys who were thinking about entrepreneurship as a career path are now seriously considering it, it’s no longer a pipe dream,” he says, adding Australia still has some cultural challenges to tackle.   “Lots of people are quite risk averse. A lot of people are afraid of the stigma of failure, and that’s Australia wide.   “We need to change that around and turn it around. Everyone who has started a business will know you fail a thousand times before you get it right. This program is about giving these guys the network to learn and accept that.”

Melbourne entrepreneur wins $30k scholarship for SV university program

5:03AM | Wednesday, 8 May

University of Melbourne graduate Zezan Tam will join 79 entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley next month for a 10-week program at Singularity University, after winning a $30,000 scholarship for his carpooling concept.   Tam is the creator of cloud-based app Carpooler, designed to make carpooling easy by saving drivers time and money, while helping to reduce congestion and transport-related pollution.   Tam is the winner of Singularity University’s Global Impact Competition, which launched in Australia in February.   The aim of the competition was to come up with an idea that could positively impact more than one million Australians.   As the winner of the competition, Tam will travel to Silicon Valley with a $30,000 scholarship, which will see him attend the 10-week Graduate Studies Program at Singularity University.   This university, located in the NASA Ames Research Centre, was founded by a number of well-known personalities including Google co-founder Larry Page, space entrepreneur Robert D. Richards, physician and entrepreneur Peter Diamandis, and inventor Ray Kurzweil.   The Graduate Studies Program is designed to inspire and equip leaders who want to build innovative solutions to address global challenges.   Tam will be joined by 79 other participants from the around the world. In addition to the program itself, he will be exposed to investors, funding bodies and mentors.   He will also receive a scholarship from Singularity University partner Creative Universe, which offers leadership and innovation programs to enhance leadership performance and productivity. Creative Universe will support Tam’s attendance at the Creative Innovation Global conference in November, which gives participants an opportunity to present their vision for the future.   Tam told StartupSmart cars are often heavily underutilised, so his plan is to change that.   “Cars are wasteful in two ways. You use them for two out of 24 hours a day and you use one out of five seats,” he says.   “You think of all the resources that go into building this wonderful piece of engineering, and then it barely gets used to its full potential.   “A lot of value can be related to carpooling. The only reason people don’t do it now is because of a lack of coordination.”   Tam, who is yet to build the Carpooler technology, has high hopes for the Graduate Studies Program.   “Number one is to get my mind blown apart from all this cool stuff out there,” he says.   “[I’m also hoping to] use the time out there to get the concept developed and get it funded so I could hire some full-time staff to get it built, then return to Melbourne and keep working on it.   “Melbourne is one of the perfect cities because of the urban sprawl here. I would prove the concept here in Melbourne, which would essentially allow me to expand to Sydney and some more American cities.”   Tam wasn’t the only entrepreneur recognised by the judges in the Global Impact Competition. Queenslander Mark McConville won second prize with a unique comedy-based entertainment and educational program.   He will receive mentorship and support services from the Australian Institute for Commercialisation and the Gold Coast Innovation Centre, worth more than $16,000.

Melbourne insulin innovation set for global rollout

3:16AM | Monday, 11 March

Australia’s oldest medical research institute has applauded efforts to turn Melbourne into a biotech hub after making a landmark insulin discovery, set to be commercialised overseas.

Australian start-up StethoCloud snags $75,000 grant from Microsoft

3:12AM | Friday, 15 March

An Australian start-up that developed a solution to diagnose childhood pneumonia has won a $75,000 grant after being named the runner-up of the Microsoft Imagine Cup Grants program.

Is your university on the money?

11:33PM | Monday, 26 November

It’s well known that some universities have a heavier focus on entrepreneurship than others. But when it comes to funding prospects for student start-ups, does the university make a difference?

Wollongong seeks to reinvent itself with start-up “Hackagong”

3:52AM | Monday, 11 March

Wollongong is set to join the hackathon trend later this month as part of an ongoing attempt to reinvent the NSW city as a start-up hub.

Melbourne Uni start-up MetaCDN snags $2.3 million investment

3:41AM | Tuesday, 12 March

MetaCDN, a web start-up born out of the University of Melbourne, has secured $US2.3 million in an investment round led by Australian venture capital firm Starfish Ventures.

Seek co-founder Paul Bassat sets up new private equity venture

3:02AM | Tuesday, 12 March

Seek co-founder Paul Bassat has flagged his intention to do private equity deals in the media and technology sectors, having already set up an early stage investment fund earlier this year.

Sydney start-up OpenLearning to go up against Coursera

9:16AM | Friday, 28 September

Sydney start-up OpenLearning will go up against online education heavyweight Coursera as it prepares to launch a range of free and paid courses, but with a much greater focus on student collaboration.

GE chief urges caution over online courses

9:31AM | Wednesday, 26 September

The vice president of multinational finance giant GE has raised doubts about the success of online training programs, insisting they can’t replace face-to-face courses.

Queensland Uni to join online course stampede

9:21AM | Monday, 24 September

The University of Queensland has announced it will offer massive open online courses (MOOCs) in the next two years, following in the footsteps of the University of Melbourne.

Melbourne Uni partners with Coursera to offer free online courses

9:52AM | Thursday, 20 September

The University of Melbourne will offer seven free online courses after partnering with US company Coursera, with three of the courses covering topics in economics and technology.

StartUp Academy students to get firsthand taste of start-up life

7:02AM | Tuesday, 24 July

A new start-up program in the United States is aiming to give university students a firsthand taste of life in a start-up, but it’s unknown whether the program will be extended to Australia.

Entrepreneurialism about the team, not a Zuckerberg-type individual: Academic

7:38AM | Friday, 6 July

An Australian university professor has offered an in-depth insight into entrepreneurship and its defining factors, including why entrepreneurialism is about the team rather than the individual.

First start-up winners announced for Melbourne Accelerator Program

6:17AM | Thursday, 28 June

A new accelerator program at the University of Melbourne has announced its first four winners, including an internet venue booking system and a power system for rural and remote areas.

Study outlines four essential elements to YouTube viral success

5:08AM | Monday, 21 May

Researchers at the University of Melbourne identified a formula to understand why some branded YouTube videos go viral, while others fail.

Australia’s innovation performance dubbed “appalling”

5:29AM | Wednesday, 16 May

Australia’s innovation performance is “appalling” compared to other countries in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, according to a former chief scientist.