'Incubator' to boost student start-ups

Computer science students at UNSW with a bright idea will soon gain rent-free access to an on-campus business incubator space for up to six months.

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Computer science "Incubator" encourages student-run start-ups. (Credit: iStockphoto)

Computer science students at UNSW with a bright idea will soon gain rent-free access to an on-campus business incubator space for up to six months.

The Venture Incubator Space is opening in the School of Computer Science and Engineering in early 2012, and will take students beyond the classroom and labs, and into the savvy world of IT start- ups.

It is designed to encourage a culture of entrepreneurialism, offering students – past, present and future – the chance to share a vibrant workspace with like-minded individuals, commercialise their ideas and network with venture capitalists.


“We’re looking for exciting ideas that have the potential to be turned into viable commercial software products,” said Maurice Pagnucco, head of the School of Computer Science and Engineering.


“The incubator is a small step to encouraging students – and staff – to develop their ideas and give them a chance to move those ideas out into the marketplace,” he said.


The program has also been set up so that students will retain ownership of any intellectual property they develop inside the space or as part of their business venture.


Mark Gauci, director of business development for UNSW’s Faculty of Engineering, said computer science is the perfect launching pad for the incubator space.


“Translating IT know-how into commercially successful products requires very little capital,” he said. “In most cases, all these companies need is a PC and an Internet connection.”


The School has a solid track record of producing successful graduates. Former PhD student Ori Allon developed the Orion search engine, which optimises searches by automatically including related key words to deliver the most relevant pages to users.


In 2006, Google purchased this technology and promptly offered him a job. More recently, Allon began a start-up company called Julpan, which was acquired by the social media giant Twitter in a lucrative deal.


Another alumni, Alex North, heads the engineering team at an Australian start-up called Posse – a platform that connects fans with their favourite bands, and rewards them for promoting shows and selling merchandise.


While at UNSW, Adam Brimo started the website Vodafail to document customer complaints against the mobile service and network provider Vodafone. He's now running a start-up called Mijura, which develops task and meeting management software. 


Pagnucco said students with “great ideas and a passion for turning them into products and starting companies” inspired the incubator space.


Once up-and-running, it will house between four and eight student-run ventures. Successful applicants will be offered a lease for a period of up to 12 months, with the possibility of a six-month extension.


Students can operate rent-free for the first six months of tenancy, and at subsidised rates for the remaining period of their lease.


They will also receive free Internet data services from the school and a range of support and advice from NewSouth Innovations – the University’s commercialisation company.


“We will offer start-ups continuing advice on deal structuring, and make important introductions to venture capitalists,” said Graham Morton, a business development officer with NewSouth Innovations.


“If we develop this model and market it effectively other students will see there’s a real conduit for becoming an entrepreneur after graduation,” said Morton.


Media Contact: Myles Gough, UNSW Media Office, (02) 9385 1933 or 0420 652 825