The Canberra Innovation Network (CBRIN), currently located at Level 5 of 1 Moore Street, is a not-for-profit organisation launched in 2014 with the mission of empowering entrepreneurs to make an impact and change the world.
With limited space and funding, CBRIN’s work has had an outsized positive impact on the local startup ecosystem, supporting dozens of rapidly-growing Canberra-based companies and producing untold economic benefits for the local economy. A PwC economic impact report found that every $1 of ACT Government funding CBRIN received in 2021 had boosted gross state product by $50 directly and a further $30 indirectly.
Rather than being confined to the fifth floor of an ageing government building, CBRIN should be expanded and integrated into an Innovation Hub of national significance, becoming the centrepiece of a burgeoning innovation district sprawling across the City Centre from ANU’s campus in the west to UNSW Canberra’s new campus in the east. The transformation of CBRIN into a larger Innovation Hub of national significance would involve donating and furnishing all remaining levels of 1 Moore Street.
This Innovation Hub should help direct and connect our local universities’ research-commercialisation and business-development programs, as well as serving as a central headquarters driving the establishment of an integrated nationwide innovation network with hubs in every state and territory.
We need to do more to help the National Capital retain world-class talent and reap the economic rewards of the world-class research taking place here. Many deep tech companies are founded in Canberra but lured away from our region when they move from the startup to scaleup phase and the universities that supported their initial research are no longer able to host them. This is precisely when they start realising their economic potential and attracting top talent.
A new National Tech Precinct would provide fast-moving companies with office space, shared advanced tech manufacturing facilities and on-hand professional services. It would be intended both to support Australian hardware-based startups outgrowing their host universities and to attract impressive tech innovators from interstate and overseas. This facility would work closely with the expanded Innovation Hub, which would remain focused primarily on supporting non-hardware-based companies. The National Tech Precinct would ideally be constructed in the Civic innovation district. Other options could also be explored along a future light rail loop near the airport or in Fyshwick.
A key focus for the Innovation Hub and National Tech Precinct should be fostering cutting-edge public-private collaboration in both the development of tech and the sharing of skills. These facilities should be sites that connect and showcase local companies to government, helping boost procurement opportunities for homegrown SMEs as well as giving governments an opportunity to better understand – and more heavily invest in – sovereign capabilities.