Following weeks of confusion around the government’s $23 million Incubator Support scheme after the budget revealed the government would be “refocusing” the initiative to better support regional Australia, Minister for Innovation Arthur Sinodinos has announced grants for four new recipients, totalling $1.4 million.
South Australia’s Flinders University will receive almost $200,000 to expand its New Ventures Institute, which will look to assist startups focused on advanced manufacturing, while the Advance Innovation Hub in Brisbane will receive almost $270,000 to work with hardware startups and provide them with access to prototyping and manufacturing equipment.
Gearing up for launch later this year, Sydney’s The Studio, meanwhile, will focus on supporting startups in the new media and creative technology sector with the biggest grant of the round, receiving $500,000.
Chantal Abouchar, CEO of The Studio, said there is a wealth of potential in the sector, pointing to the rise of local success stories Canva, Envato, and 99Designs, and global companies such as Netflix and Pandora.
“The bigger players have changed the importance of engaging with the disruptors in this space. As a technologically creative nation, Australia is well positioned to further to shake this up,” she said.
Abouchar, a Walkley Award-winning cinematographer, director, and producer, had last year released a report examining global accelerator programs dedicated to startups in the entertainment industry to look at how startups are changing the entertainment landscape.
Her research, undertaken for a thesis in the AFTRS Masters of Screen Arts and Business (MSAB) program, looked closely at the work of Time Warner’s accelerator program Media Camp.
The program has worked with 27 startups over the last three years to help ‘future proof’ its business, with the startups ranging from a YouTube analytics platform to a startup hoping to change the way people consume news broadcasts.
“Hollywood has always been very good at finding and exploiting talent, and accelerators are their newest mechanism. Time Warner is an organisation that bets on creative talent. It thinks about startups in the same way it thinks about producers, directors, writers, actors, technicians and other professionals in the industry,” Abouchar said at the time, stating Australia had to do more targeted work in the space to keep up.
Jennifer Wilson, chair of The Studio, said, “In much the same way that Stone & Chalk offers a hub, a home and a unified voice for start-ups in the well-supported fintech sector, our vision is that the The Studio will become the go to advocate for the creative and mediatech sector.”
Also receiving funding is the I2N (Integrated Innovation Network) Regional Accelerator, a collaboration between Slingshot Accelerator and the University of Newcastle (UoN); this builds on the university’s I2N hub, established through a NSW Government grant last year.
With over $474,000 in funding, the accelerator program will look to identify and support up to 16 startups from across the Hunter region over the next two years.
Slingshot, which earlier this year received funding from the Queensland Government to expand into Brisbane and Cairns, stated it expects the program to create at least 45 jobs in the short term and deliver around $2 million in investment back into the Hunter economy over the next two years.
Trent Bagnall, cofounder of Slingshot, said the program will look to stimulate regional growth and connect businesses with innovative new services and technologies.
“I2N presents an exciting opportunity for both startups and local organisations to connect and collaborate to deliver real business outcomes,” he said.
With Slingshot and UoN having worked together previously, the university sponsoring Slingshot’s first accelerator cohort and collaborating on an entrepreneurship course for university students, Professor Kevin Hall, senior deputy vice-chancellor (Research and Innovation) said UoN is excited to take the partnership to “a new level”.
“It will provide an additional layer of impact to the current service offering of both Slingshot and UON, to the benefit of the region, by generating greater inter-disciplinary and intra-regional collaboration,” he said.
The only other project to receive funding from the Incubator Support scheme thus far is Paspalis Enterprises’s proposed Darwin hub, which received $500,000 in early May.
The company is to partner with Charles Darwin University to develop the Darwin Innovation Hub, described as a “custom-built incubator environment” to support a pipeline of local startups.
Image: Chantal Abouchar. Source: Supplied.