Innovation centre targets start-ups

THE Gold Coast Innovation Centre (GCIC) is challenging the perception that technology incubators only target high-tech start-ups for funding assistance by pushing to help a wider range of Gold Coast entrepreneurs.

The Griffith University and Gold Coast City Council joint initiative has recently doubled in size and CEO Andrew Loch now hopes to attract a broader range of companies.

“There is an existing perception that most incubators support only very early-stage start-ups and conceptual stage businesses,” says Loch.

“However there are a number of growth stage businesses which can benefit from incubators which assist their members in leveraging other existing government programs including the new Commercialisation Australia grant funding program.

“We’re targeting a mix of SMEs that are more advanced to join our ranks as a way of increasing our industry spread and helping grow the next wave of innovative Australian companies.”

The GCIC is supporting 10 innovative businesses, a number of which are in residence and benefit additionally from using GCIC’s flexible office space environment.

Two companies that have benefited from their association with the incubator are advertising robotics developer Grassads, and Biobike, an innovative computer controlled cycling machine which monitors the performance of athletes.

“We have a great idea which is proving to be commercially attractive, however we wouldn’t have been in the position we are now without the assistance of an incubator,” says Biobike co-founder Stewart Williams.

“Our efforts are best spent on refining our product and getting it commercial ready, and making our way through the maze of government assistance, funding sources and other hurdles is something we just couldn’t have done on our own.”

Williams says the Biobike prototype has gathered traction from two London international cycling exhibitions, though the company was reluctant to take deposits before the product was fully refined.

With the first finalised production model recently rolled out, he believes it won’t be long before the product finds its way into local and export markets.

Grassads is becoming the smart approach used by sponsors to advertise at major sporting events around the world, including golf, international cricket, NRL, international rugby tests, the State of Origin, V8 Supercars, the Commonwealth Games and gridiron in the US.

The technology drives a small robot called Druit, which is programmed to draw an outline of any graphic on a playing field or sporting surface, regardless of size or complexity.

The ads are sized and the perspective altered on-site to suit the available area and complement the surroundings. The original idea for developing Druit was based on being able to create quality grass advertising for use on golf courses, which have endless contours, it offers a variety of options for presentations on grass. Traditional methods of creating graphics on grass, such as with the use of stencils, do not have the flexibility of Druit, which has the ability to adjust the size and perspective of the graphic to suit different viewing angles and variable presentation areas.

Loch says it can be difficult for business start-ups to know where to find support and incubators are providing invaluable assistance.

“For any start-up company the road ahead can be long and daunting, and making the right business decisions at the right time can make all the difference between a business success and a business dream,” he says.

“We’re not only providing resources, mentoring and valuable networks to assist our members but we’re also helping to facilitate the new industries that will be major employers in years to come.”

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