Canberra has made its mark as a centre of innovation at the Telstra National Business Awards in Melbourne on Thursday night (20 September), with two local businesses taking out two of the four awards, including the main prize.
Cyber-security firm Penten was crowned 2018 Australian Business of the Year, while strategic design consultancy ThinkPlace won the Social Change Maker award.
Penten also took out the Medium and Making waves award.
Penten was formed only three years ago with a vision to solve some of the hardest cyber-security problems faced by Australia and its allies. It has grown from a small team of four to more than 50 staff today.
Based in Braddon, the Penten team has created world-leading technologies that protect Australia’s most classified information from its most sophisticated cyber adversaries.
Penten CEO Matthew Wilson said it was an amazing night with Canberra punching well above its weight.
“I had a group of judges come up to me and say, what is going on in Canberra at the moment,” he said.
Mr Wilson said Canberra was a university town, “so proximity to academia and creation is important, but we’re of a size that allows the entrepreneurs of Canberra to get together and share their stories”.
He said Canberra also had spaces and structures such as the Innovation Network where a lot of cross-fertilisation could occur.
Penten was also working to enable defence and national security staff to work with mobile devices securely and for those organisations to maintain a modern workforce.
“What we’re trying to do is allow people who work in defence and national security at the highest classifications of data to start using mobile devices,” he said.
“There’s no way for them to be able to build modern work practices within their organisations because they’re stuck to a rigid desk ICT infrastructure.”
Mr Wilson said the next generation of knowledge workers didn’t work that way anymore.
He said the company was now growing out after being focused on research and development form the past three years.
“We’ve only just begun the process of rolling out capability within government and it’s really about expanding that in Australia,” he said.
“The Penten team are humbled at being recognised at the Telstra Business Awards and have been grateful to Telstra for supporting Australian business and giving us a platform to tell our story.”
Barton-based ThinkPlace has design studios across Australia and applies design thinking and a process of co-design to solve complex problems within the public, private and humanitarian sectors.
Started in 2005 by former public service executive John Body, the business now has 60 designers across studios in Canberra, Sydney and Melbourne, and a global design network spanning New Zealand, Asia, Africa and the US, all to make the world a better place.