Disruptive Innovation: Moving an Idea through Prototype to Market
Café Scientifique, Tuesday 16 April 2013
Academics, entrepreneurs and tradespeople alike were inspired to innovate at Inspiring Australia’s latest Café Scientifique event.
The event was held in partnership with Australian National Fabrication Facility’s Queensland node (ANFF-Q) at the Queensland Museum on 16 April.
Café Scientifique is a series of engaging science presentations and networking opportunities for a variety of audiences. Events are hosted by Inspiring Australia in conjunction with partners across the field of science.
The ‘Disruptive Innovation’ café brought together a stellar line-up of speakers from small business, government, industry and academia to share their experiences and advice surrounding innovation.
The audience was an eclectic mix of innovative manufacturers, research and development experts and entrepreneurs, representing a wide range of industries from electrical trades to engineering and everything in between.
Rosie Hicks, CEO of ANFF Ltd, spoke about the importance of creativity in innovation and the many ways that ANFF helps bring life to creative ideas, from manufacturing smaller silicon chips to discovering better ways of processing skim milk.
ANFF facilitates innovation on the nano-scale by linking 19 universities and the CSIRO into a nation-wide network of fabrication facilities for use by all, thus helping innovators from academia and industry transform their brilliant ideas into reality.
Speaking about innovation in Queensland, Professor Max Lu, Deputy Vice Chancellor (Research) at the University of Queensland (UQ), said Queenslanders are quite good at coming up with ideas, but not as good as our European and Asian counterparts at turning an idea into a commercially viable end product.
Collaboration and networking were recurring themes throughout the event, and Lu highlighted the need for researchers and industry to work together to achieve innovation in Queensland into the future.
Associate Professor Jason Stokes, from the School of Chemical Engineering at UQ, also stressed the importance of partnering for innovation.
He pointed out that the five-step process of innovation – associating, questioning, observing, experimenting and networking – is conveniently very similar to the academic process.
Stokes also said that an idea leading to an innovation doesn’t have to be a ‘eureka moment’ but can be a slow hunch that something might work, or even a network of ideas contributing to a successful innovation.
Another recurring theme among the speakers was how essential it is for businesses to innovate if they are to succeed, with Dr John Kapeleris, General Manager of The Australian Institute of Commercialisation, warning that if a business of any size fails to innovate, the market will move on without them.
Kapeleris quoted Thomas Edison, who said “Innovation is 1% inspiration, and 99% perspiration”, to stress that innovation is about a lot more than just brilliant ideas.
He also shared the good news that there are five main areas of innovation encompassing a lot more than just products and services, which is what springs to most people’s minds when innovation is mentioned.
Several successful local innovations in the fields of medicine and renewable energy were showcased, indicating our state’s great potential for innovation in the future.
ANFF-Q Professional Officer Jane Fitzpatrick outlined some successful nano-scale innovations that have been made possible thanks to the facility, including the needle-less Nanopatch vaccine, developed and manufactured at ANFF-Q.
The Chief Technical Officer of Brisbane-based hydrogen storage company Hydrexia, Stephanie Moroz, talked about her company’s exciting innovations in making hydrogen storage safer, more cost effective and potentially more viable for widespread use as a renewable energy source.
Small businesses often do it tougher than larger enterprises, and Ms Moroz detailed the advantages and disadvantages of trying to be innovative in a small business, contrasting these with her own experiences working in a large multi-national corporation.
Fortunately, several federal government initiatives exist to support small businesses and help them to transform their bright ideas into reality.
Commercialisation Australia case manager Stuart Hazell outlined the range of services provided by the program to help companies survive those tough early years, including grants, case managers and a network of experts.
Hazell also provided practical advice to prospective entrepreneurs, detailing the process for taking an innovation from idea to market, and highlighting the top reasons that entrepreneurial companies fail before they begin.
Enterprise Connect is another government initiative to help businesses reach their full potential, providing independent business reviews and grants to help implement changes suggested by the review.
Enterprise Connect’s Researchers in Business facilitator, David Martin, explained that opportunities to innovate are everywhere, but the best ones to target are those that contribute to business growth and strategic objectives.
The event ended with a networking session for speakers and audience members, and left everyone inspired to innovate in all areas of business.
Communications Assistant, Inspiring Australia (Qld)