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A Meetup for Innovation Practitioners – Continuing the conversation with James Cook University

Posted 4 years ago

Behind this crisis are some big opportunities not seen before in the regional Australian innovation landscape. 

Impact Innovation is hosting a meet-up series to support Innovation Managers as part of a response to COVID-19. The series enables mangers of innovation to share insights and challenges. What we’re seeing is that the group is offering peer support and helping solve problems. Last Thursday we heard from Brook Orr, Associate Director, Innovation, from James Cook University.

Before the COVID-19 landed in Australia, James Cook University had been leading a range of initiatives to support the economic growth of Northern Queensland. They had received Federal Government support to assist in the development of purpose-built Innovation facilities, the JCU Ideas lab in Cairns and the Technology Innovation Complex in Townsville – which is still in the design phase. But things have changed with new social distancing measures and it’s not all bad.

While the new JCU Lab building is on track to be completed by July 2020, social distancing has made the dates for moving in and starting skills programs, workshops and incubators uncertain. However, the support of new business ideas is needed now more than ever to enable the region to adapt and recover. Brook outlined the new systems, including the Brightidea online idea management software, that have been rapidly set up to enable both internal and external people to engage. Whereas engagement had primarily been internal and face-to-face. It is expected that the new way of working will strengthen innovation initiatives for the region, including the design of spaces in the Townsville complex.

Brook demonstrated that behind this crisis is a really a big opportunity. In the last couple of weeks, she had seen the usual barriers of distance reduce as people from neighboring towns interact more than they did previously. Because the barriers are expected to be less post-COVID-19, Brook believes, “we do have a real opportunity for regions and regional areas to really step up and shine”. She also said that there was “definitely that need to look at what you’re developing and how that can provide value to your surrounding region and regions outside of that.” Good advice to promote a greater scale in any new ideas.

Rather than focusing on regions defined by town centers, the focus seems to be expanding across multiple town centres. Of course, there’s some irony here is that it took extreme social isolation to break the isolation imposed by a few hundred kilometers of road. Innovation in Australia is different to other places. And it appears will be stronger as new ways of working together become more acceptable.

After hearing from Brook, the group split into smaller groups using the Zoom break-out room functionality. In these virtual rooms with fewer people, participants were able to share and discussed their current challenges. The benefit being that multiple minds provide more insights and options to work around the challenges being shared.

The innovation manager meet-ups are held every second Thursday and 12 AEST. They run for 60 min. If you are responsible for running an innovation or commercialisation programs and would like to join the group, click here. You will also be able to access the recording of the previous event.