University of Melbourne
Two Australian university accelerators have been named in a global list of top 25 university incubators produced by University Business Incubator Index, a global best practice benchmarking group. The UBI Index ranks more than 300 university-affiliated business incubators in 67 countries in three performance categories, including value to the ecosystem, value to startup clients and attractiveness of the incubator program. Sydney-based ATP Innovations (working with University of Sydney; University of Technology, Sydney; Australian National University; University of New South Wales) was ranked fourth and Melbourne Accelerator Program (University of Melbourne) was ranked thirteenth. This is the second year in a row ATP Innovations has appeared on the list, also appearing fourth on last year's list. ATP Innovations was recently named incubator of the year at the National Business Incubation Association awards in New Orleans, winning the 2014 Randall M Whaley Incubator of the Year award. More than 300 software, hardware and life science startups have been helped by ATP Innovations since 2000. Together, they have raised over $113 million in capital since 2006. Last year, ATP Innovations’ companies had combined revenue of over $45 million, half of which was export related. They raised $8 million in equity capital, hired 69 new employees, launched 80 products, and had seven patents granted. For MAP, the global recognition means that all their hard work has been validated, says MAP manager Rohan Workman. The director of research at the UBI Index, Dhruv Bhatli, described the MAP as an exceptional program. “It performs really well on our global benchmark especially on access to network and competence development indicators,” Bhatli says. “Furthermore, MAP’s clients have a higher survival and growth rate and perform much better than the global average.” Workman says there is a vibrant culture of entrepreneurship in Melbourne that is starting to be recognised globally. “We’re exceptionally pleased that our hard work over the past two years has been validated by the UBI Index,” Workman says. In total, more than 60 program components were used to compare incubation programs, with the MAP performing highly in both access to a high-quality network and coaching services. Of the world’s top universities (as ranked by the Times Higher Education Ranking) only the University of Melbourne’s Melbourne Accelerator Program and Georgia Tech’s Venture Lab were in the list. Bhatli says successful entrepreneurial programs require broad support. “This proves our hypothesis that creating a competitive business incubation program requires a clear focus from the university,” says Bhatli.
The University of Melbourne’s Tin Alley beta program is set to expand, with three universities – Monash, Swinburne and Tasmania – joining the initiative. As program co-founder Miguel Wood told StartupSmart, the program helps to bring together startups with enthusiastic tech students. “The program is a form of community infrastructure that fulfils a core need, and that’s access to talent, bringing together stakeholders,” Wood says. “Startups spend a lot of time and effort on looking for tech talent, while students often don’t know to look to find opportunities to work for startups.” An official announcement of the expanded program will take place at an event at the offices of 99Designs in the Melbourne suburb of Richmond. While applications for the 2014 program don’t open until mid-August, Wood says the event will be a good opportunity for startups to get familiar with the program. “It’s really to announce the program expansion, explain how the process will work for the expanded program, and it’s an opportunity for startups to talk with partners, fellow startups and ex-students,” he says. For startups wishing to go further, Miguel warns that the selection process is competitive in finding the best startups for the talent. “It’s a fairly basic online application that involves the need for tech talent and the potential role for people being selected, then there’s an independent panel of peers to make a selection on the best environment for the student,” he says. The original program ran last year and paired five Melbourne University undergraduates with local startups to get a feel for what running their own tech company looks like.
The Abbott Government’s first federal budget has allocated funds for capital investment into the National Broadband Network (NBN) to continue up to 2017-18 but with a cap of A$29.5 billion. This falls well short of NBN Co’s original forecast of A$44.1 billion not withstanding various estimates of cost blowouts and new NBN Co leadership’s revised forecast of A$72.6 billion. The Coalition under Tony Abbott’s leadership in opposition and in government has long maintained that NBN could cost less and be rolled out quicker. That commitment was confirmed this week by Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull following the budget announcement on spending. In a statement, he said the budget provides A$20.9 billion in equity funding to NBN Co to cover up to 2017–18. This is on top of A$8.6 billion already committed bringing the total to the capped A$29.5 billion. New sources of funding needed NBN Co CEO Bill Morrow now faces some difficult decisions in deciding how best to allocate resources to meet the objective of providing high-speed broadband across Australia. Since the Coalition’s election in September last year the NBN has been subject to a number of reviews and a wholesale clean out of management. With many reviews, such as the cost-benefit analysis, yet to report, the strategic direction for NBN Co is uncertain making it difficult to comment on future developments with accuracy. What can be said with certainty is the capping of the government’s investment gives a clear indication that Coalition’s NBN will be vastly different from that proposed under Labor. But some issues will need to be addressed so they do not provide a thorn in the side to NBN Co or hinder the rollout of broadband across the community. The funding cap amplifies the need for private investment. Only A$57 million has so far been earned in revenue related cashflow against the A$7.3 billion invested to date. NBN Co will therefore be required to increase revenue and raise funds through private equity or debt financing to ensure it can fund both operational expenses and future capital investments. But it will need to show an attractive rate of return potential to lure Australian institutional investors, superfunds and other international investors. Alternatively NBN Co will be forced to secure loans to bridge the gap. But whether the Abbott government would offer debt guarantees to the company remains an open question. NBN Co may seek to reprioritise the rollout of the planned network by cherry picking more profitable connections in metropolitan regions. But this may detract from the rollout of services in areas with a higher capital cost, such as regional towns and outer suburban areas, which are often those areas that have the most to gain from the provision of broadband. Deals with telcos The A$11 billion deal with Telstra to lease part of its existing network is currently under renegotiation. This might extend to accessing existing fibre-to-the-cabinet, hybrid fibre-coax and dark fibre in addition to copper infrastructure to speed up “new” NBN rollout. A changing technology mix means that some existing copper will not be decommissioned, entering operation as part of the NBN. The outcomes of the renegotiation and the terms of any new agreement will impact the rollout and the future technology mix. Fibre-to-the-node in some form and maximising the use of existing copper infrastructure appears to be a dominant base for such mix and existing carrier infrastructure may offer opportunities in a funding constrained environment. By further reviewing its construction and installation methods NBN Co may be able to achieve some cost savings and curtail cost blowouts. Network competition The NBN Co is operating in an uncertain regulatory environment. The current rules were set up with the NBN Co being a monopoly wholesale infrastructure provider. But internet service provider TPG’s plan to rollout its own fibre-to-the-basement network is changing the telecommunications landscape requiring a regulatory response. Failure to clarify this would force NBN to lose opportunities in rolling out to rapidly expanding apartments sector with a customer base often opting for higher tier services. Australia would then see its history repeated once more with parallel network rollout similar to the hybrid fibre-coax rollout by Telstra and Optus. Maintaining the wholesale monopoly for NBN Co could have possible competitive consequences. Currently there appears to be a confusion in the way wholesale services are defined with potential restrictions on emerging market opportunities. NBN review panel’s terms of reference is seeking input on clarification of this. Relieving NBN Co of its wholesale-only constraints, or at least redefining its limitations, would allow it to provide network connectivity directly to business end-users such as mobile base-stations, large businesses, governments and national infrastructure such as power grids which offer high growth potential. This approach would be good for NBN Co as it would open new revenue streams that would support the government’s desire for the company to increase private investment. Thas Ampalavanapillai Nirmalathas is a Professor of Electrical and Electronic Engineering. He is currently an Associate Director with the Institute for Broadband-Enabled Society which has received funding from a range of sources including the University of Melbourne and Victorian Government. He is also the Director of Melbourne Accelerator Program which helps to promote entrepreneurship culture through acceleration of start-ups. Views expressed in this article is entirely that of the author and do not reflect the views of his employer - University of Melbourne. He receives funding from the Australian Research Council. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.
Sydney biotech startup Clarity Pharmaceuticals, which hopes to dramatically improve treatment outcomes for a range of serious diseases such as cancer, would not exist if not for the support of Commercialisation Australia, according to its executive chairman, Dr Alan Taylor. The startup is at the cutting edge of medicine and hopes one day its technology can be used to deliver far more personalised medicine to patients. Taylor says the technology has the potential to take a drug which has been at 20% efficacy in clinical trials, and raise it to closer to “70, 80 or 90%” by determining whether or not a drug is reaching its intended target. “They have helped us significantly,’’ he says of Commercialisation Australia – the body the Commission of Audit recently recommended should be abolished. “Our latest commercialisation grant funded is an experienced executive grant, funding our head of contract services, which is the revenue part of our business.’’ This week the company raised more than $1.1 million from investors to expand its international operations in the US, Europe and Asia and to develop new applications for its technology. The company has now raised $3.5 million from investors and grants from Commercialisation Australia. Taylor says the company could not have just relied on the private sector to get off the ground. “The private sector would do their own investment in research and development and the like, but when it comes to a company raising funds as a startup, it’s very rare to a have a strategic private sector company, investing in a startup,’’ he said. “Typically in the early stages of funding, it’s the three F’s, friends, families and fools, and angel groups and the like. “When it comes to medical academia, Australia has a strong record, but we have not yet built the ecosystem to commercialise a lot of this research.’’ The company was founded by Dr Matt Harris in 2010 with $650,000 of seed capital and has since taken the technology, developed by the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation and the University of Melbourne, to market where it’s being used by international pharmaceutical companies to improve the development and testing of new medicines.
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, 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.
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
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.