Innovative ideas, entrepreneurship, and start-ups are revolutionising the way we approach business. With more emphasis on out-of-the-box thinking and solutions, there is a growing need for more creative and collaborative workspaces where this can take place. For this reason, cities around the world are turning to ‘innovation hubs’.
An ‘innovation hub’ is a space for different businesses, start-ups, and industries to come together and co-create. Depending on the particular hub, this may look like generating business between start-ups and established companies, designing local community initiatives, or solving industry problems.
International students in Australia can gain a lot from these spaces. Whether you’re searching for a career mentor, wanting to make valuable connections with local businesses, or looking to develop your entrepreneurial skills, getting involved in an innovation hub is one of the best things that you can do for your future career.
Benefits of innovation hubs
To understand just how beneficial innovation hubs can be to international students, we spoke to a couple of students who had recently been involved with the virtual City of Joondalup and franked.io Joondalup Innovation Challenge at Edith Cowan University’s Joondalup Innovation Hub in Western Australia.
Second-year teaching student from Edith Cowan University, Curtis Brand, was initially drawn to the real-world experience and networking opportunities he could get out of the Joondalup Innovation Challenge.
“Study is obviously super important, but real-world experience and networking are going to be pretty important when it comes to finding a job on the other side of this,” Curtis says.
For University of Western Australia student, Russell, it was about continuing to develop his entrepreneurial skills outside of the university semester.
“Semester break was a little too short for an internship, but I knew I wanted to do something productive with my time,” Russell says.
Being stuck in Singapore due to COVID-19 restrictions, participating in the Joondalup Innovation Challenge meant that Russell could apply his Bachelor of Commerce knowledge in a practical setting.
“Joondalup Innovation Challenge introduced me to the Business Canvas Model and really allowed me to put the knowledge I have acquired from my course in management to potentially solve a real problem. Additionally, it also taught me how to work under pressure with a team and meet tight deadlines,” he says.
Curtis had a similar experience and particularly enjoyed the challenge of collaborating on ideas with a group.
“Sometimes you have the grounds for something big, exciting, or helpful, but your blind spots get in the way. Having someone constantly question your ideas can seem frustrating but, when it’s done in a way where you’re mutually working towards the same goal, it’s super valuable,” says Curtis.
Australia’s best innovation hubs
Whether it’s attending a one-off event, dropping by to chat with some industry leaders, or getting involved with a structured program, here are some of our favourite innovation hubs in Australia.
Joondalup Innovation Hub
One of the major centres of innovation in Western Australia is Joondalup Innovation Hub, part of the Edith Cowan University campus. The hub began as a space to explore digital innovation in areas like cybersecurity. Playing host to a number of student-focused events and programs, including the Joondalup Innovation Challenge, the hub is one of the most accessible innovation hubs for international students to get involved in start-ups and creative thinking.
One component of the recent Innovation Challenge required participating students to pitch new ideas for business opportunities to a panel of renowned judges, including the Mayor of Joondalup City Council, Albert Jacob.
Reflecting on the challenge, Albert Jacob says, “I was not only impressed by the calibre of the pitches, but also the professionalism and courage of the students who could have been excused for finding it confronting to present their ideas to leaders of business and government – and to do so in front of their peers. As a city, which is home to the first innovation hub in WA, our goal is to build Joondalup’s reputation as a place for innovation and creativity and these innovators of the future look set to make their mark at a local, national, and global level.”
Tonsley Innovation District
Occupying a 61-hectare site south of Adelaide, Tonsley Innovation District is part of Flinders University. Home to a number of established companies, business incubators and start-ups, Tonsley is renowned for its work in reimagining and redeveloping traditional manufacturing facilities. With its convenient location on the Flinders University campus, students have unique access to Tonsley’s industry leaders, events, and networks right on their doorstep.
Melbourne Innovation Centre
As a business incubator, Melbourne Innovation Centre provides the environment and services to help accelerate small business growth. The Centre offers a range of Business Incubation programs, setting you up in an office or warehouse space and providing mentoring. There is also a co-working space in Greensborough, which offers opportunities for networking.
Lot Fourteen is a global precinct located in South Australia that’s focused on innovation, entrepreneurship, research, education, culture, and tourism. The precinct is home to two different innovation hubs. The Entrepreneur and Innovation Centre is a space for businesses, researchers and entrepreneurs to commercialise and launch ideas to the larger worldwide market. University students may also be interested in the Stone & Chalk start-up hub, which offers unique opportunities for universities, investors, mentors, and corporate and government organisations to collaborate on ideas, strategies and solutions.
Sydney Startup Hub
Sydney Startup Hub is an innovation centre that connects people, businesses, and investors in one of Australia’s biggest cities. With an aim to build a start-up community, the centre prides itself on being a pipeline for high-value job creation in New South Wales. The Hub hosts a diverse group of resident businesses and start-ups, so is likely to be of interest to any international students planning on working in New South Wales after graduation. With a busy calendar of networking events, you won’t find it hard to get involved here.
Engineering Innovation Hub
The Engineering Innovation Hub is a collaborative space for the engineering industry. Created by Charter Hall Group, Western Sydney University, and the University of New South Wales, this innovation hub is going to house a new collaborative Bachelor of Engineering Advanced Honours degree and a number of courses in architecture, industrial design, and entrepreneurship. With a huge range of opportunities for collaboration between students, educators, researchers, and industry experts, this hub isn’t one that engineering students want to miss.
Darwin Innovation Hub
Located in the centre of Darwin, the Darwin Innovation Hub is a collaborative business space that connects Charles Darwin University, AusIndustry, and the investment group, Paspalis. Focused on commercialising business in northern Australia, this hub offers a variety of activities and events that students can attend. These include networking events, guest speaker workshops, industry meetups, and mentoring sessions. If you’re interested in staying on top of business in the Northern Territory, this may be the innovation hub for you.
The Joondalup Innovation Challenge is a Virtual Employability & Entrepreneurship Challenge designed to build the employability and resilience of University students. It brings together educators, business leaders, entrepreneurs and artists to build a community unlike any other – learn more here!