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Lumen Autumn 2017 Issue
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A new home for entrepreneurs

Professor Noel Lindsay

Professor Noel Lindsay
The University has a long and successful history in incubating great ideas, with innovation at the core of the research we do.

The new ThincLab Adelaide will further the University’s efforts to stimulate innovation and entrepreneurship in South Australia, by providing our entrepreneurs with the resources to create and sustain successful new businesses.

As a young, aspiring entrepreneur, Noel Lindsay left school to set up his first small business at age 16. Initially it was a roaring success, he had found a market for his innovation, a business partner and they were making good money – but the success didn’t last. Noel lacked the management skills to sustain the business, and soon after it closed down.

Now a Professor and the Director of the Entrepreneurship, Commercialisation and Innovation Centre (ECIC) and Pro-Vice Chancellor (Entrepreneurship) at the University of Adelaide, this early experience taught Noel what every budding entrepreneur needs to learn – in addition to a cracking idea, you need business knowledge and skills to be successful.

ThincLab Adelaide has been established to provide entrepreneurs with everything they need to incubate, grow and execute their ideas. This purpose-built innovation hub on North Terrace will offer entrepreneurship courses from bachelor level through to post-graduate; mentoring through the Australian eChallenge program; a prototyping lab including 3D printers; commercialisation expertise; networking with overseas entrepreneurs; and a business incubator.

“Someone may be thinking, ‘I’d like to go into business but I’m not sure what I would like to do’, so we can help them with creative workshops to generate ideas,” says Professor Lindsay.

“Others may come along with a great idea but want to develop it further, create a prototype, learn how to pitch to an investor, or commercialise their idea.

“ThincLab is geared to provide the full range of support that an entrepreneur needs,” he says. 

A key feature of ThincLab is the business incubator. This is where students, alumni, start-up companies and research teams will take up tenancy in the space for a period of time, and work side-by-side as they develop their business ideas.

“ThincLab is great opportunity to build bridges and encourage collaboration between our students and researchers, alumni and industry,” says Noel.

“The incubator provides the interface for these groups to mee – to learn from each other, to exchange ideas and perspectives, all with a view to developing a multidisciplinary approach to best grow an idea.”

Participants in the incubator will be tenants at ThincLab for approximately three months. In addition to supporting each other, they will have access to academics and high achieving students, connection to venture capitalists and investors, mentoring, workshops and events, meeting rooms and boardroom facilities, and the prototyping lab and design studio.

The prototyping lab and design studio will include state-of-the-art, industry-spec 3D printers and fabrication technology for the creation of prototypes.

“The 3D printers can print with rigid as well as very pliable rubbery plastics. We even have a printer of interest to space researchers, which is capable of producing components suitable for sending into space,” says Noel.

In addition to helping innovators develop ideas and the skills to start a business, an accelerator program is available to entrepreneurs who already have an idea and would like to fast-track its growth.

Through the Australian eChallenge program, participants can work with experienced business mentors, attend specialised workshops, connect with the University’s research community and pitch their ideas to investors and other businesses.

“We currently have around 50 mentors who will be part of ThincLab, many of whom have been with us for a long time – these are very experienced entrepreneurs, professionals and state government people,” says Noel.

In addition to the Australian eChallenge program, the accelerator program can help entrepreneurs identify funding sources, approach investors and negotiate with confidence. There are also opportunities to partner with academics or licence early-stage technologies through Adelaide Enterprise, the University’s commercial arm.

As well as its breadth of resources, what makes ThincLab Adelaide unique is the added layer of learning from overseas entrepreneurs involved in other ThincLabs. 

“Whether it’s France, South Africa, Europe or Asia, we have study tours where participants can spend time with international entrepreneurs and participate in internships,” says Noel. 

“Through our international connections, we can also help our researchers set up in other locations, and we can help overseas researchers aligned with the University’s and the state’s strategic objectives to co-locate here.”

ThincLab Adelaide will be facilitated by Noel and his team at ECIC, who bring academic as well as many years of practical experience in entrepreneurship to the table.

‘I’m a ‘pracademic’, and so are most of my team at ECIC – I’ve owned many start-ups over the years. It would be hard to teach someone about entrepreneurship if you haven’t experienced it yourself,” says Noel.

“One of the things I love is transferring my passion and experience in this area to other people, and giving them the support to help them develop new ideas. ThincLab will provide greater opportunities to do that.”

Read more about ThincLab or email any expressions of interest in being involved.

Story by Kelly Brown
Photo by Russell Millard

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Media Contact:
Kelly Brown
Email: k.brown@adelaide.edu.au
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