Silicon Bay? We can be a part of the innovation generation

By: Stan Corner

Innovation has been high on the national agenda for a number of years now, after our PM, Malcolm Turnbull, suggested that innovation, especially focused on technology, would be the future of our nation.

Even before the PM uttered those pre-election words, technology had been a big part of our national economy. We’ve seen success stories such as Atlassian and Aconex, where Australian technology companies have thrived and succeeded, both at home and abroad.

The challenge for Australia has always been in creating an environment to foster technology. Hence the race across the country for a region to be our technology hub, similar to that of Silicon Valley in the USA.

Geelong as a technology hub

It’s been suggested before that our community might become the new ‘Silicon Valley’ of Australia, our own ‘Silicon Bay’.

The challenge is: We’re not alone in wanting that title. Numerous regional locations are also interested in the same opportunity. In my opinion, that’s not a bad thing. As a technology company, we’d support as many Australia businesses as possible becoming involved in putting Australia at the forefront of technology innovation.

What I find interesting is some of the work going on in our region that showcases our technology credentials, and more importantly, our ability to monetise it.

Runway Geelong

Runway Geelong is a fantastic initiative. Founded by Nick Stanley, Peter Dostis, and Leighton Wells, Runway’s focus is to foster entrepreneurship and start-up businesses. Runway aims to help take a great business idea or offering to market and, more specifically, a global market. We’ve seen the potential of this project at BTS and we’ve both sponsored the initiative and become involved as a mentor.

While not specifically focused on technology, there’s been a technology flavour to what they have achieved. The thing about start-ups today is that they’re technology savvy; while not specifically being a technology company, you can guarantee that it plays a huge role in what they deliver. Technology is one of the great enablers to accessing the global economy, and there’s a huge groundswell in the start-up community using this to power their businesses. Runway Geelong helps to monetise these programs, accelerating an entrepreneur’s ability to grow their business through access to mentoring, investors, and partners.

Sky Software

Nick Stanley has been a leader in the technology space in our region for sometime. He’s had one of the key technology success stories within Geelong, when in 2014 he sold his software business, Sky Software, to Tribal Group, a UK based organisation. It again shows what can be done within our region, putting Geelong on the map from a technology innovation perspective. Post the acquisition, Sky remains committed to the Geelong region, continuing to employ local staff.

Nick is a big supporter of the Geelong region. To quote Nick directly: “We are following the lead of locations like Boulder, Colorado, and building something new with a regional nuance”.

Start-up culture

Back to the question of Geelong as the next Silicon Valley: My answer to that is yes, we can focus on technology and innovation as a core component of business in our region. While Silicon Valley is recognised as a technology centre of excellence in the USA, it’s not the only one. For example: Austin, Texas is another technology hub, particularly for start-ups. Geelong can be a part of this story in Australia; more regional areas becoming involved can only present a win-win situation.

What I hope to see is a focus on entrepreneurship. One of the great outcomes of the Runway Geelong project is that it’s not limited to technology, it’s designed to help start-ups. It’s this entrepreneurial spirit that I believe Geelong can embrace.

Start-up’s approach technology differently; they see it as a core enabler to what they do. They won’t get stuck in the traditional business model of “it’s the way we’ve always done things”. They’ll challenge the status quo, disrupting traditional markets through a different go-to-market approach and offering. That will flow through to present new opportunities within our region.

The challenge for more traditional businesses is to embrace this start-up culture. There are a number of mature established businesses that are reinventing themselves internally, or creating a spin-off that’s perhaps not core to their business today, but could well be tomorrow. It’s the perfect way of remaining relevant in the fast changing world we live in.

Anything is possible

One final example I’ll leave you with is the work Deakin University is doing in Geelong, manufacturing carbon fibre technology for cycling. It’s a great project, one that ties back to our manufacturing past, but with a combination of innovation and technology for the future. If you’re prepared to think differently, anything is possible.