Canberra Innovation Network’s First Wednesday Connect – 100th edition

Article written by CEO of Canberra Innovation Network, Petr Adamek.

The Canberra Innovation Network (CBRIN) was established by the Australian National University (ANU), University of Canberra (UC), UNSW Canberra, CSIRO and the Canberra Institute of Technology with support from the ACT Government to connect, promote and grow the ACT innovation ecosystem. Of all the things that the network does, First Wednesday Connect is perhaps the most visibly representative of this purpose. In many ways, it has become the pulse of the innovation ecosystem in Canberra, a meeting place for innovators, entrepreneurs, researchers, students, corporates, government, SME owners, investors, mentors, and people excited about or interested in innovation in Canberra.

With the first ever First Wednesday held on 1 July 2015, we are coming to 9 years of its existence and its quite remarkable 100th edition on 3 July 2024, hosted by the ACT Government.


The event regularly attracts over 200 registrations, with 3 events last year exceeding 300. With close to 3,000 registrations, 2023 was the strongest year for First Wednesday Connect on record. And the interest is not slowing down, the first 5 events of 2024 exceeded the registrations of the equivalent events in 2023.

In 2024, only one of these events will have been held at CBRIN, the rest is hosted by different institutions and organisations (CBRIN Foundation Members and Partners) around Canberra. In fact, these host opportunities were fully booked before the year even started and 2025 host spots are being taken quickly. On average, 47% of registrations are from people who have never been before, reflecting the open and expansive character of the innovation ecosystem in Canberra. In 2024, we are set to hit a total of 20 thousand participations, of which 11 thousand will be unique.

2024 First Wednesday Connect Venue Hosts

Meeting place

There is something fundamentally human and physically social in how interactions at First Wednesday Connect happen. It offers a very welcome alternative to digital social channels (that in my opinion maintain distance rather than connect people) – the conversations at First Wednesday Connect are simply real and offer genuine face-to-face connections.

The design of First Wednesday Connect may resemble a combination of an amphitheatre (a stream of pitches where attention of the crowd is concentrated on the speaker) and a medieval marketplace (where attention is highly distributed, with lots of interactions and movement happening at the same time). Throughout human history amphitheatres and marketplaces have been the magnets of human activity, places of inspiration and exchange of ideas, knowledge, connections and products. The First Wednesday Connect in Canberra, deeply connected to and often hosted by the education and research institutions, performs the same function for the local (and regional) innovation ecosystem.

Collaborative effort

Thanks to its regularity, predictability (everyone knows when the next one will be on), efficiency, diversity and vibrancy, the event is thriving. It is a massive team effort to put it all together well, the host organisation works with the CBRIN team intensively across many elements including marketing, promotion, composing the list of pitchers, making sure we have a diverse range of themes and presenters, catering, bump in, production, MCing, lucky door prize, packing, evaluation and statistics.


Every single participant can benefit and enlarge their own networks, develop new opportunities, learn, connect and expose their ideas, information, resources or expertise to the crowd. There is an atmosphere of sharing, supporting, introducing and connecting. There is a spirit of collective pride for the diversity of the ACT innovation ecosystem. It is a source of energy, knowledge and collaborations – some of the key ingredients that teams need to fuel progress of their innovation projects. People can start and grow from here, but come back to stay in the loop, see what is happening, and where they can give back. The Canberra First Wednesday Connect inspired and was adopted by innovation centres overseas and nationally. Meetups are very common in innovation ecosystems around the world but the consistency with which it is delivered in Canberra is quite unique and highly impactful.

Learn more and register

Read more about the power of consistency and how it is relevant to entrepreneurs in a great blog post by our GM Growth Dr Craig Davis, and do not miss the opportunity to join us as we celebrate the magic 100th on 3 July 2024 at ACT Government building. See you all there!