Universities face significant opportunities and challenges in how they internally organise themselves and invest their…
In 2014, Elizabeth Eastland published “iAccelerate: An Example of a Regional Innovation Accelerator Transforming a Declining Manufacturing Economy” in the University Industry Innovation Network’s Good Practice Series. Here, almost two years on, Eastland reveals more about the origins, trends and challenges, and future progression of this case study in Wollongong, Australia.
iAccelerate is a set of tailored technology business acceleration programs housed in a single location, the purpose built iAccelerate Centre. The co-locating of these programs rapidly develops technology focused businesses in the Illawarra, diversifying its economic base and creating jobs. The iAccelerate Centre provides ‘plug and go’ expandable space for over 280 entrepreneurs actively developing fast growth companies who are provided with focused mentorship, tailored education, and access to funding. iAccelerate deliberately outreaches to women entrepreneurs to participate in the program. After a highly competitive round of funding the team won $16.5M from NSW State Government to build the Centre will make the full program sustainable indefinitely.
It is through relationships with and the local business community, Waterloo Accelerator Centre (Canada), and the substantial support from NSW Government, that the vision for iAccelerate has become a reality. The Waterloo Accelerator Centre is a world-renowned, award-winning centre for the cultivation of technology entrepreneurship, currently home to 50+ technology startup companies and has become the nexus for Waterloo’s innovation community. It was funded by the Federal and Provincial Governments, Ontario Centres of Excellence, the Regional Municipality of Waterloo, the City of Waterloo and the University of Waterloo, and industry and academic partners. Using the Waterloo Accelerator Centre as a model, gave the impetus for stakeholder commitment to the vision, and provided the financial incentive for NSW Government to fund it for $16.5M.
iAccelerate has now supported over 60 companies, who have created over 120 jobs, launched many new products, attracted revenues, and significant investment. Critical Arc, mentioned in the original case study, has recently completed a second round of funding and is valued at over $14M, is launching globally in the UK and US and has made inroads into the Middle East. Our Women’s Entrepreneurial Breakfast Series has made significant inroads into encouraging female participation and at the time of writing, 47% of iAccelerate companies have female co-founders. iAccelerate Centre is on track and on budget and due to open mid May 2016.
About Elizabeth Eastland
My grandfather was an entrepreneur with over 100 patents. My father worked for NASA and I have been involved in high tech since the mid 1980s.
The biggest trends and challenges facing the area of university-industry interaction
The biggest trend is the recognition of how important it is for universities to address the need to graduate students who are not only job ready but ready to create their own job. The challenge is in how this is done. Traditional education prepares students for entering a company that is already in existence. But large corporates today are being seriously threatened by new entrants and universities need to be able to prepare their researchers and their students for this inevitably changing market. Students will likely start their own businesses or have experience working in a small business within the first couple of years of their career.
A similar case I would like to recommend to UIIN readers:
I would recommend understanding the history of Waterloo Canada in becoming the most innovative city in Canada 21 years in a row.
You can read Elizabeth Eastland’s full Good Practice Case Study, here.