Brief history of the ACT innovation ecosystem

The ACT Government and its key partners, including the ANU, UC, CSIRO and UNSW, have invested in or supported a number of initiatives that had been important formation elements in the Canberra and Capital Region innovation ecosystem over the past two decades.

Key initiatives

These include but are not limited to:

  • Epicorp established in 2001 – business incubation co-funded under the Commonwealth ICT Incubator program ($4.57M). Clients included: GP Sports, Mediaware International, Locata Corporation, Windlab Systems.
  • National ICT Australia (NICTA) was established in 2003 as a national research centre of excellence in ICT with focus on software systems, mobile systems, machine learning, computer vision and optimisation. NICTA received ACT Gov funding of $25m over 5 years.
  • The Knowledge Fund operating between 2003-2006 with ACT Government funding of $13.1M (for projects valued at $76m).
  • ANU Connect Ventures established in 2005 as a collaboration of ANU and MTAA Super. With ACT Government support ANU CV raised $30M, and dedicated $3M in 2011 via Discovery Translation Fund to bridge the gap between research and commercialisation, awarding grants up to $50,000. Investments included Epiaxis Therapeutics, Beta Therapeutics,
    Instaclustr, Interferex, Liquid Instruments and Seeing Machines.
  • InnovationACT – ANU led business planning competition for pre-revenue stage startup ideas, the largest entrepreneurship program in the ACT, established and running since 2008.
  • Innovation Connect Grants funded by ACT Government, aimed at pre-revenue businesses to help them get market-ready or investor-ready, 500k p.a., established in 2008.
  • Lighthouse Business Innovation Centre that followed up on Epicorp activities and delivered programs and support to over 2,500 unique individuals or enterprises between 2008 and 2011.
  • Canberra Business Point operated by the Canberra Business Chamber to refer small businesses operators to resources, advice and information.
  • Entry29 – not-for profit coworking space founded in 2012 to service budding entrepreneurs with support from the ANU.
  • Griffin Accelerator – established in 2013 with collaboration from ATP Innovations (today known as Cicada innovations) and local angel investor community (including from Capital Angels, one of Australia’s oldest angel investor communities).

The above information is a synthesis of data from multiple sources, including papers by Howard Partners and “Creative Capital” by Peter Dawson. By no means this aims to be a perfect nor an exhaustive overview of all activities that contributed to the innovation ecosystem in Canberra. If you know of an element that should be mentioned above, please do not hesitate to let us know (enquiries@cbrin.com.au).

Since its establishment in 2014 the Canberra Innovation Network has experimented with new approaches to support economic growth through innovation, integrated and linked services of other providers in the ACT. CBRIN has a rich history and has taken a central role in growing the innovation community and its ecosystem.

Learn more about the history and amazing technology companies in this 2023 article by Nick McNaughton (Canberra as an Innovation powerhouse).

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