The University of Queensland (UQ) has this week opened its Idea Hub, a new coworking space based at its St Lucia campus designed to help entrepreneurial students and young innovators grow their early-stage ideas.
Opened by Mark Sowerby, Queensland’s chief entrepreneur, the hub will provide residents and students access to a network of mentors as well as workshops, which cover topics such as research, pitching and storytelling, prototyping, market validation and business models.
Designed to take an idea from imagination to early-stage development, the workshops will form part of an existing program that UQ offers, which over 250 students have completed in total.
Speaking about the announcement, Executive Dean of UQ’s Faculty of Engineering, Architecture and Information Technology, Professor Simon Briggs, said the new space forms part of university’s student development strategy, actioned through programs designed to help foster student innovation.
“Providing mentorship, careers advice, industry experience and startup opportunities is front and centre of the university’s student strategy. The UQ Idea Hub allows us to offer students from all disciplines a new set of game-changing skills and opportunities,” said Briggs.
Nimrod Klayman, director of the UQ Idea Hub, said the university has already seen some students come forward with ideas.
“So far, we’ve seen ideas that cover everything from drone technology and software to clothing, distilleries, robots, improved household services, social enterprises, financial technology and everything in between,” he said.
Speaking at the launch event Sowerby, a UQ alumnus, said the development of infrastructure to help support innovation reflected the “tsunami” of entrepreneurs and startups emerging in Queensland.
“This facility is certainly the way of the future. If you really want a platform to take on the world, there’s no better way to do that than with a startup and a business that you grow, and the lessons you learn along the way,” he said.
Sowerby’s launching the space follows a tour of regional Queensland he took with to promote entrepreneurialism. He was accompanied on the trip by Steve Baxter, founder of mobile laundry startup Lucas Patchett, and other successful founders.
The trip saw events held in regional startup hubs such as theSPACE in Cairns and Split Spaces in Mackay, in addition to visits to eight other regional towns including Yeppoon, Rockhampton, and Mount Isa.
Speaking about the tour, Somerby said it served as a chance to see and understand how small businesses and startups are working within smaller towns that don’t have access to supportive facilities and programs.
“We know community and networks are vital to developing Queensland as a startup economy. We want to act as the glue to connect the state’s entrepreneurs, incubators, investors and mentors, and make things happen,” he said.
“It’s the small businesses, startups and scale-ups that drive real job growth and the same skills and rules apply for each of those businesses to be successful. Today’s small business might be tomorrow’s global startup; it’s crucial to support grassroots entrepreneurs and encourage them to back themselves because we know there are no limits to how successful they can be.”
Sowerby, the founder of Blue Sky Alternative Investments, was appointed Queensland’s first Chief Entrepreneur last year, tasked with supporting innovation within Queensland.
Image: UQ Idea Hub. Source: Supplied.