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Going ‘glocal’ as an innovation mantra

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Business Foundations, which last month won a tender to operate Western Australia’s Innovation Centre at Technology Park, Bentley, has set a ‘glocal’ agenda to spur entrepreneurship and innovation.

It wants to stem the state’s brain drain, focusing on the local aspect, while simultaneously tapping synergies with the U.S., a key global lifeline that gives Australian startups generous funding and expertise, besides provides access to the world’s largest market.

We talk all the time about Australia’s brain drain of start-up talent going offshore; well, the same is true of WA. You have to have the support and resources for local innovators to help them develop their ideas and markets,” Executive Director Phil Kemp told Anthill.

We plan to expand links between the United States and the innovation community in WA, as the U.S. represents about 27% of foreign investment into Australia, and there is strong interest from areas like Silicon Valley,” he said. “The team we are bringing together at the WA Innovation Centre have the contacts, expertise and hands-on experience to help innovators turn their ideas into commercially viable enterprises or products.”

Business Foundations is itself a storied organisation that has nurtured entrepreneurs for the past two decades. Its own establishment is a tribute to entrepreneurship – sandal makers in the Fremantle Markets pushed for its formation after receiving rare mentorship from a Murdoch University student. Its first business incubator was run from the Old Fremantle Prison.

Resolving the innovatior’s dilemma

Our skills lie in giving business owners and would-be business operators the management training and assistance to help protect them from the early pitfalls and booby traps that most new firms face,” Kemp said. “We have a proven track record of working in the SME sector and we are involved in Perth’s angel investor and tech start-up ecosystem.”

So, who is the guy at the centre of the innovation program?

It’s not the smart guy making millions of dollars working from a computer in their garage, Kemp pointed out in a bid to alter broad perceptions. He or she is more commonly “a researcher, scientist or an industry expert with a cutting-edge idea and absolutely no idea how to test the market, secure the intellectual property, commercialise the innovation, develop the network that will support the venture and find the commercial backing to make it a reality,” he said. Last year, the Innovation Centre empowered over 1,000 such innovators with its range of services.

Kemp says his non-profit organisation will work with new and existing innovative businesses to identify opportunities for introducing innovation to the market.

The innovation space in Australia lacks a clear connection between the people who generate good ideas and the people who will pay for them. What is required in Australia for innovation to quickly gain momentum is a better way to identify the market potential of ideas and then connect the innovators to potential customers,” said Kemp.

The key intermediary in this process is the businesses that are in dire need for innovation in order to survive, and investors scouting for the next big thing.

ICWA will connect Western Australian businesses that require innovative technologies and processes to remain globally competitive to the people that are developing innovative technology and process solutions,” said Kemp.

The Innovation Centre will focus on a number of sectors including mining services, technology, manufacturing and services.

Another issue Kemp seeks to address is early market validation.

Without a customer, an innovation is just a good idea and what you don’t want is someone to waste two or three years muddling around before they finally get to the potential market only to find the customer isn’t interested and doesn’t want the product,” he said.

Consequently, Innovation Centre wants to get businesses talking to potential customers sufficiently early, and attain validation before speeding up the process of implementation of innovation.

Business Innovations also operates the Small Business Centre South West Metro and Enterprise Connect. It has offices in Perth, Fremantle, Kwinana and Rockingham.

Image courtesy: Creative Commons

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