Tech entrepreneurs connecting through the Sydney Knowledge Hub

10 October 2019
The head of the Sydney Knowledge Hub, Rupal Ismin, is ready to create deep connections between STEM entrepreneurs and the University of Sydney.

“The Hub will allow early-stage organisations to work hand-in-hand with the University through access to our community of experts and world-class research facilities that may otherwise be out of reach for them,” said Ms Ismin.

The Sydney Knowledge Hub is a membership-based co-working space for organisations with high-impact research at the heart of their work. It aims to develop pathways for startups, enterprise and non-profits to work more collaboratively with the University without a formal agreement.

"We aim to streamline access to the capabilities and instruments of the University in areas such as cytometry [measurement of the properties of cells], microscopy, and bioinformatics, in order to support organisations throughout their commercialisation journey," said Ms Ismin.

“The Australian startup landscape has come a long way in the last decade in nurturing innovative ideas with business and financial support; I believe that access to these critical tools and knowledge will help move the dial to create a science-based innovation hub that works in concert with other spaces in Sydney like Cicada Innovations and CSIRO’s Linfield Collaboration Hub.

We aim to streamline access to the capabilities and instruments of the University in areas such as cytometry [measurement of the properties of cells], microscopy, and bioinformatics, in order to support organisations throughout their commercialisation journey.
Rupal Ismin, head of Sydney Knowledge Hub

NSW Chief Scientist and Engineer Professor Hugh Durrant-Whyte, who is presenting at the Hub’s inaugural event commented, "Small companies with big ideas are incredibly important to this state. By encouraging their close collaboration with research, and even government, we ensure a flourishing entrepreneurial environment that will deliver great outcomes for NSW."

About the Sydney Knowledge Hub

Beginning operations this month to commence its pilot year, the Sydney Knowledge Hub is located on level two of the historic Merewether Building on the University’s Camperdown campus. The building has been restructured by Cox architects to accommodate the Hub.

The Knowledge Hub has a few inaugural members, such as Open Parachute, delivering online video-based mental health programs and The Gradient Institute, specialising in the science of ethical AI, with a queue of applicants in progress.

Successful applicants will have access to event spaces and private and collaborative office spaces with a cross-sector community of organisations onsite.

Benefits include access to:

  • the University’s seven specialist Core Research Facilities with a discount applied
  • recruitment and internship pathways to using University talent
  • hands-on workshops (in areas such as developing ethical AI systems, user-centred product design and how to do applied research)
  • administrative professionals to help scale the business
  • the University’s alumni network.

“The odds of serendipitous collaborations are increased in environments where initiatives are transparent, people are in close proximity to one another, and routine is disrupted. While digital communication is important, it will be the Sydney Knowledge Hub’s presence on campus that leads to both more formal and organic partnership opportunities,” Ms Ismin said.

A photo of Rupal Isman, smiling.

Rupal Isman, head of the Sydney Knowledge Hub.

Formerly general manager of Hub Australia, one of Australia’s largest flexible workspace providers, Rupal Ismin has also previously worked as Chief Operating Officer for Bay Area startup City Innovate, a non-profit focused on solving problems for city and state government through emerging technological solutions. She first engaged with early-stage business as the founder of an ecommerce website with a financial model that provided small business loans to individuals in developing countries.

 A selection committee is continuing to assess membership applications for the Sydney Knowledge Hub.

“The most important acceptance criterion for STEM entrepreneurs that apply for membership is the desire to work more closely with the University.” Ms Ismin said. “We are also considering how ‘home grown’ the initiative is and the level of social impact the business could have.”

In its pilot year participants are likely to include organisations with a current tie to the University, including current PhD students commercialising their startup.

“Our first year will be all about testing, learning and reacting to members’ needs. Our inaugural members will help develop and improve the space.”

Professor Eric Knight, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research – Enterprise & Engagement) commented, “This unleashes the tremendous potential for the University to be a regenerative space for entrepreneurship. Harvard and MIT have similar entities, namely MIT’s Engine and Harvard’s Innovation Lab, because they understand the importance of what they can do for the community, government and industry.”

Panel discussion on how to start and grow a business

On October 14 the Sydney Knowledge Hub’s first official event is a panel discussion with STEM startup founders and investors on how to start and grow a business from University research.

The panel will share insights on founding global businesses, including how to acquire the essential technical and business skills, and how to talk to investors. Speakers include NSW Chief Scientist and Engineer Professor Durrant-Whyte.

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