The WA government’s announcement of their latest Innovation Hub could provide golden opportunities for startups, according to one of the state’s leading data science research centres.
The Data Science Innovation Hub is a partnership between the state government and Curtin University, who are each chipping in $800,000 over the next four years.
The Data Science centre will join the existing Mining Hub in Kaloorlie-Boulder and Cyber Security Hub in Joondalup, and will be spread across Curtin’s Bentley and City campuses.
In announcing the Hub, Curtin University’s Vice-Chancellor Professor Deborah Terry said collaboration at all levels is a key focus for all parties.
“The estimated economic impact of disruptive digital and internet technologies on WA’s economy in 2025 is $76 billion per annum, which means it is essential for all parts of the sector to work together to ensure we are best placed to meet the challenges of the future,” she said.
“As part of the new hub, data science undergraduate and postgraduate students from all four public universities will also gain vital insights into the sector by being exposed to real-world data science opportunities and work experience placements.”
Business Development and Research Manager for collaborative data science research centre Frontier SI’s WA operations Darren Mottolini told Startup News he’s cautiously optimistic about the opportunities the Hub could bring.
“Having a dedicated focus into data science and having a focal point for it in Western Australia is, I think, a really good thing,” he said.
“Obviously there’s details still to come out in terms of how it’s going to operate, but I’m sure there will be some strong, interested industry linkages that they’ll be seeking to setup and deliver within the first couple of years of operation.”
Growing government interest
New South Wales leads the states in their foray into data science, having launched their own Data Analytics Centre in 2015 with $17 million in funding over four years, before Queensland and Victoria followed suit more recently.
The announcement of WA’s data science hub appears to be the most inclusive approach, however, bringing together industry, education and government.
Darren said he would have liked to have seen more government investment in the data science space though.
“It seems quite low, to be honest,” he said.
“You’ve either got to make a statement in this area or you’re not going to make a statement in this area.”
Why startups should care
Despite this, Darren said the Hub could hold particular promise for startups.
“Something like this innovation hub can provide the opportunity for small businesses to work with large organisations that they would not normally have an easy door to open and get into,” he said.
“There are brilliant people working on point solutions all over the place. What the innovation hub could do is … put them in front of large corporations and explore their challenges under a different lens.
“I think that’s one of the most important things government can focus on, … working not only on what is there now, but what is required into the future so we can help startups to not only deliver new solutions but also allow them to have a forward research and development path for their business as well.
“Businesses that stay stagnant, startups that stay stagnant, don’t last.”
The economy of knowledge
Innovation Minister Dave Kelly said the hub will assist businesses in tapping into the increasing amounts of data available to them.
“There is real potential to create and support jobs by harnessing the increasing availability of large volumes of data in WA to grow our existing industries,” he said.
“To create these WA jobs, we need to provide practical training and develop the skills needed to meet the challenges in this burgeoning field – this is exactly what the McGowan Government’s third innovation hub will do.”
Darren said the hub should help develop WA’s knowledge economy.
“Data drives a lot of what everyone does,” he said.
“It drives what business does, it drives how services are delivered, it drives the ongoing evolution of technology.
“If we’re going to move forward in a knowledge economy, we need smart people to be working in the future industries that not only can work with data but can also understand the nuances of data.
“What we have is a strong ecosystem, a growing ecosystem for startup businesses.
“That needs to be supported by giving them the opportunities to work and refine what they need, or what value they’re hoping to deliver, by working with large organisations.”
Helping business help government
It’s not all about private enterprise though, according to Darren, who said there are opportunities in the hub for government as well.
“It’s also just as important for government to have the same mindset as industry in terms of data science into the future to say, from a government perspective, ‘how can we be doing things better as well?” he said.
“I think that’s sometimes a part that gets missed – government supports this but government also have to work with it.”
Darren said this will hopefully just be the start for WA’s involvement in the global knowledge economy.
“I think the state really needs to focus on how we promote ourselves as a region for investment,” he said.
“So a region for businesses to invest into the skills, into the startup businesses, into the ecosystems of Western Australia and support it either through additional seed funding [or] venture capital funding, or else we’re going to lose the smart people.”
The Innovation Hub will officially be launched with an industry event in September.
Disclosure: The author is a student at Curtin University.