Another round of innovative startups given a funding boost

Lottie Twyford 27 July 2021
Petr Adamek from Canberra Innovation Network talking onstage

Canberra Innovation Network CEO Petr Adamek says he was impressed with the diversity of businesses chosen for the latest round of grants. Photo: Canberra Innovation Network.

Innovative businesses doing everything from airport artificial intelligence and quantum sensors, to telehealth for chronic pain and online fashion, have been awarded the combined funding of around $260,000 in a recent round of grants.

A partnership between the ACT Government and Canberra Innovation Network (CBRIN) has seen nine diverse startups secure funding through the aptly named Innovation Connect (ICON) Grant.

CBRIN CEO Petr Adamek says he was very impressed with the diversity among this year’s ICON Grant recipients.

“At the network, we are sector agnostic which means any person from any walk of life with an idea who can create an innovative business, can apply for a grant,” he says.

“We are not just here for technology businesses.”


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The selection process for the grant is simple. Businesses book an interview with CBRIN to tell their story, and are then invited to apply for the grant.

“Only businesses which are in the early stages of growth are suitable because we want to help them get to the stage where they are investor-ready,” explains Petr.

Once the applications have been shortlisted, a few businesses deliver a Shark Tank style pitch to an independent panel.

Integrated Management Solutions founder Leo Fan’s Safe Synergy is one startup to receive a grant in the latest round, and he says he’s extremely grateful to both the ACT Government and CBRIN for their support.

Screenshot of Safe Synergy website

Safe Synergy aims to mitigate the effects of human error in industries such as rail, air and manufacturing. Image: Leo Fan.

He is set to use the grant to speed up the development of his product – AI-powered technology that helps alert workers in real time to potential hazards.

“My plan is to continue working with Deakin University to develop the product, but also branch out to working with companies in the field by the end of this year,” says Leo.

“By next year, I hope to have the product deployed in a real-world environment. Firstly, we will look at rail, and then move on to airport terminals and the manufacturing sector.”

Such industries require strict compliance in the workplace, and Leo’s product aims to mitigate the effects of human error.

Rae Knopik and Serina Bird speaking onstage at Canberra Innovation Network event

Rae Knopik (left) and Serina Bird (right) spoke at a recent Canberra Innovation Network ‘Female Founders’ event. Photo: Kerrie Brewer.

In an apt display of just how diverse the range of businesses that received recent grant funding was, online sustainable fashion forum The Joyful Fashionista was also successful in its application.

Founder Serina Bird, author of The Joyful Frugalista, says it was about more than receiving the money – it was important to her to get both the vote of confidence and the validation for her product.

The Joyful Fashionista is a peer-to-peer shopping website to encourage sustainable and inclusive fashion.

“I’m really passionate about saving money, about women looking and feeling great, and sustainability – and I’m a huge op-shopper,” says Serina.

The grant will be put towards developing a professional website as the current site was self-designed and built.


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This year, half of the successful grantees were women, which Serina says is important given that female entrepreneurs are globally under-recognised.

“They [CBRIN] have made a conscious effort to cast their net wide, and I am really grateful,” she says.

The ICON Grants are designed to support early stage businesses through testing, prototyping, partnering and determining the commercial feasibility of their products.

Each business received funding between $10,000 and $30,000. The next round of grants will open in spring 2021.

Learn more about the work the Canberra Innovation Network does to connect innovation and entrepreneurship with science and research.


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