The Generator innovation hub in Bundaberg, Qld is a vibrant community of passionate leaders focused on delivering economic outcomes in their region and beyond. I had the fortune of spending a day with community manager and founder Eleanor Carey to see what made the space tick.
Vision and strategy
When I landed, Eleanor and I shared a coffee and experiences as community managers of regional innovation hubs. The Generator has achieved good outcomes, secured local partners, and built an engaged community. In the eight months since opening, they have delivered or facilitated 108 events and engaged over 1,300 people in the community, introduced entrepreneurs to the region, supported local businesses, and attracted state-wide recognition.
The early days of a regional innovation hub are used to build trust and understand the needs of the community. The feedback from the community defines the programs and events needed in the future to support local entrepreneurs to build, grow, and scale their businesses.
Eleanor’s vision of the hub as a generator of entrepreneur success came through as she shared about some of the programs planned for the next stage of the space.
Pitch practice and serendipitous collisions
In the pitch practice session after lunch, we were joined by Luke from OpenCloud who has a new business that addresses internet access challenges in regional areas. Luke is a great example of the incredible entrepreneurial spirit in regional areas to see a challenge and give it a go.
Luke is also a testament to the role of the hub in creating opportunities. He credits his journey toward his start up beginning with initially setting up the WiFi in The Generator, and engages other members in the hub with digital and marketing skills to help him with his business.
Innovation hubs like the Generator create serendipitous collision that build entrepreneurial capability and capacity in regional communities.
Lean Canvas and sharing community
We wrapped up with an evening workshop to guide local entrepreneurs through the Lean Canvas. The workshop helped participants not only define their business, but challenge themselves to create scalable businesses and find customers outside of their region.
The energy in the workshop was the same I feel in hubs across Queensland and Australia. Everyone was there to give it a go and to help others along the way. By the end of the evening, each entrepreneur had the chance to communicate their business model to everyone else in the room. This meant you had a room full of people all able to identify ways they could help each other on the journey towards realising their goals.
The Generator creates community and Eleanor as Community manager acts as a facilitator to make this happen. I was privy to what happens on a regular basis in the space, as local businesses, startups, and entrepreneurs test and share ideas, overcome challenges, and provide real work opportunities to realise regional community and economic outcomes.
Setting the stage for Generating economic outcomes
What we see in Bundaberg we are seeing across Queensland, with over 21 spaces and programs emerging across the State in the past 18 months. Many of these are in regional areas, and most are independent supported by local leaders who are committed to seeing outcomes for their region.
The rise in innovation hub numbers and impact is a response to a growing imperative to create new jobs, faster, outside constraints of traditional institutionalised economic development models. This is true particularly in regional areas that are often supported by a limited number of industry sectors.
Innovation hubs being practical economic outcomes to regional areas. The initial year of a hub, particularly the first hub in a region, is one of testing, establishing trust, and building leadership capability. Once established, the hub acts as an engine of ideas and execution.
The Generator is well set up to leverage additional local support and collaboration to deliver entrepreneurial outcomes, mobilise local investment, and support employment opportunities.