Defining an innovation hub
People often picture a physical space when they think of an innovation hub. Our attachment to space is strong. Innovation hubs act like what is referred to as a third space, like a church or soccer field, that is not work or home where community is formed around a common purpose.
For a brief definition, an innovation hub is a physical or virtual space that has resources dedicated towards innovation and entrepreneurial outcomes. This is distinct from a coworking space, which provides flexible working space and may also act as an innovation hub, or an accelerator program, which has a start and stop and can be delivered in an innovation hub. Some also use the term incubator, although this has also been used to infer a focus on early stage companies whereas innovation hubs can span the range from ideation to scale up.
What’s in a hub?
Space is only one aspect of an innovation hub. Other functions you can expect to find in an innovation hub include access to:
- Networks and connections;
- New technologies;
- Technical and business talent;
- Mentoring, including encouragement, experience, and accountability support;
- Pathways to investment and customer revenue; and
- Community of like-minded individuals at different stages in their journey.
Space is not necessary to realise the benefits above, and the concept of space can vary.
Many hubs can be “pop-up” hubs in shared spaces such as libraries or pubs. Startup Redlands in Queensland has a great model operating out the local pub The Bench where mentors are scheduled to share advice and a beer. Other hubs mix physical and virtual. The geographic distance of central Queensland means Longreach’s Outback Hubs provides support and programs that are as much remote as they are local.
Other models not directly tied to a space that can act as virtual hubs include Startup Mackay, Startup Gladstone, and Startup Capricorn in Rockhampton. Other examples where the virtual hub preceded the physical space include Startup Ipswich which ran pitch events in a pub before the opening of Fire Station 101 and GC Hub which supported Gold Coast entrepreneurs for over a year before moving into a dedicated physical location powered by Little Tokyo Two.
Innov8 Logan is made up members of the local innovation Logan ecosystem, including industry, university and Tafe, local chamber of commerce, entrepreneurs, innovation spaces and programs, and local government. Each individual group is focused on
“Inspiring and driving innovation with a focus on advanced manufacturing, social and civic outcomes in the City of Logan”.
It is through the diversity and capability of those involved with Innov8 Logan that new ideas are formed and pathways to market are validated and accelerated for entrepreneurs.
Innov8 Logan emerged from a growing entrepreneurial base in the region which includes among others the physical-hardware focused Substation 33, the technical and entrepreneur support space Logan Startup Hub, leading manufacturing accelerator Evolve Group, electronics manufacturing company Masters & Young, and entrepreneurial programs at the local Griffith University. This ecosystem provides globally competitive capabilities to support local entrepreneurs such as social enterprise Powerwells, Agriculture-focused Stocr, GPS tracking and asset management company GPSengine, and vertical garden specialist Space Plants.
Community before space
These companies and more will be on show this Friday for the launch of the virtual hub in the Kingston Butter Factory, or KBF. The KBF is being repurposed by Logan City Council into an innovation hub, opening late 2019.
The launch of Innov8 Logan highlights how building the social and community capital in a region is as important if not more so than bricks and mortar hubs. Four walls and Wi-Fi do not create or attract entrepreneurs or innovation capability.
Rather than waiting for the KBF doors to open next year, Innov8 Logan is supporting groups already active in the innovation ecosystem. The involvement of all groups enhances collaboration across the ecosystem needed for local entrepreneurs to rapidly validate, grow, and scale.
Other Australian virtual innovation hubs and collaboration groups?
I will be hitting the road on an Australian research innovation tour from October 2018.
One of the things I will be looking for is the presence of similar virtual hubs and connection groups that act as a collaboration glue in local entrepreneurial communities. I will be comparing how these groups differ, what makes them work in each region, and their impact on local entrepreneurial outcomes.