Graphic of a lightbulb on a chalk board, sitting inside a thought bubble

Innovation has a new home: The University of Newcastle

Got a great idea and not sure what to do with it? The University of Newcastle are nurturing people just like you. Check out what these clever cookies from the University of Newcastle have been designing and developing. 

Entrepreneurship is a rapidly growing career path and not just for those studying a Bachelor of Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Solutions to present and future problems are being constantly developed and tested by thinkers and leaders in their respective fields, as well as university students.  

Successful projects that involve university staff and students are in the news at the moment; creative approaches to tackle climate change such as the Hydro Harvester, MGA’s thermal bricks that can be used as a renewable energy source, and the Australian Trailblazer Recycling and Clean Energy (ATRaCE) Program to produce clean energy and recycling innovations. These cutting-edge developments not only are pioneering technologies but are also cost-effective and considered viable, real-world solutions.  

It’s not just the university community noticing! The Hydro Harvester was offered $1.75 million in funding from the Australian Government’s Future Drought Fund in 2022 and the MGA Thermal brick project won the prestigious honour of the inaugural Research Commercialisation Award from the 2021 Australian Financial Review Higher Education Awards. In May 2022 the Federal Government announced an additional $50 million in funding for aCE, bringing the total industry, university, and government investment funding to $200 million. 

Bal from Borne Clothing shed some light on what it’s like to be a student innovator at the University of Newcastle, “Borne Clothing has benefitted hugely from the entrepreneurial environment fostered by I2N and the University of Newcastle. We strongly encourage getting involved in their start-up competitions; it’s a pretty amazing deal really, since you get to give something a good go in a completely risk-free environment.” 

Borne is a clothing company with a difference. The company was originally born in the 2020 Grand Challenge which asked students to create a response that counteracted the health risks posed by mosquitoes to humans. 

From there, Borne has become not just a dream but a reality, selling shirts with a social conscience to the wider community. As a social enterprise, 50% of profits from their sales go towards eradicating malaria and other mosquito-borne viruses around the world. The best part for University of Newcastle students? The fabric of the shirts is permeated with permethrin which works to repel insects odorlessly. Borne now runs independently with an impressive list of accreditations with all shirts being made from 100% organic cotton, are sensitive skin-safe and repel insects for up to 70+ washes. They also have carbon offset shipping, FairWear Foundation Approval and best of all, in the first year alone, Borne was able to donate $2000 and “have no plans to let up!” 

The University of Newcastle encourages student innovations with initiatives like Start it Up: Pitch competition, where individuals or teams can put forward business proposals to go in the running to win $2000 towards their idea, free entry into the Integrated Innovation Network (I2N)’s Entrepreneurship101 program and a hot-desk at I2N Hub for six months, located on the mysterious third floor in Honeysuckle’s Q Building. 

 The Entrepeneurship101 online course is taking enrolments and aims to give start-ups a professional edge and masterclass in launching into the business stratosphere. I2N is a dedicated space in the new Q Building that builds and nurtures the next generation of Novocastrian start-ups and ventures. Boasting purpose-built offices, access to university resources and experienced business mentors, I2N already houses a community of entrepreneurs from a variety of professional backgrounds.   

Richard Berry, I2N Program Coordinator, also recommends a number of different events to keep entrepreneur’s fingers on the pulse. These include Join the Dots, which occurs on the last Thursday of the month and is pitched as “Bringing together Newcastle’s most dynamic founders, researchers and supporters together.” He also suggests students keep an eye on Startup Stories which are on the first Wednesday of the month where a business leader or innovator tells their story from “The highs, the lows, wins, the mistakes and the inside story.”   

So, with both university and industry backing up new entrepreneurship and innovation projects, what’s stopping you from materialising your own big idea? Whilst entries for Start It Up may have closed, keep an eye on what innovations emerges from the competition, with winners being announced May 19. Visit the University’s I2N website to check out what fellow dreamers and thinkers are bringing to the table from small-scale to larger-scale projects and programs. From little things, big things grow. 

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