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Space Tank Bench 2 Business startups exceed expectations

By Holger Dielenberg

Space Tank has successfully filled all 50 places of the Bench to Business product development training program funded by LaunchVic. Last week all students and teachers gathered for a meet-n-greet celebration and information evening at Space Tank and the excitement was palpable.

I felt it was important to bring together all the students, teachers and course management before the course officially begins next month, to share the underlying philosophy of the Bench to Business training program. Essentially we want to help product startups and emerging manufacturers safely navigate beyond their comfort zones, to make them feel that it’s okay to learn and adjust their business pathway and above all to honestly evaluate whether they are truly meeting a genuine market demand or not. We want to give them the most contemporary critical thinking based on decades of our teacher’s real world professional experience and help them grow commercially successful businesses. As I unfolded this philosophy, it was warmly met with many nods and thoughtful expressions. There are many challenges that this brave bunch of startups face and we want to build a community of business support and a spirit of success around their endeavours.

Let me just say that there was a high level of excitement on Space Tank’s fabrication floor as the teachers talked about their professional experience and the course content they will be delivering.

As we all tucked into cool beverages and snacks, the workshop floor was animated with schmoozing and conversation as students and teachers alike took a keen interest in learning from each other’s experiences.

Our feedback from manufacturing startups in Melbourne shows there is high demand for manufacturing incubation and a healthy interest in future focused manufacturing at the emerging level. There are significant skills gaps and financial hurdles that these startups are struggling to overcome and there is a high level of discontent across manufacturing sectors relating to an economic blindness to physical product development. Innovation seems to be perceived through an information technology and ‘app’ lens. America and Europe moved on from this sentiment already ten years ago and are actively investing in innovation clusters that support future focused industries. Here in Australia we need to catch up to these global trends so that our young entrepreneurs can lead us from old school manufacturing to new innovation driven product development.

Based on our feedback so far, the Bench to Business training program appears to fill these gaps and has certainly struck a chord amongst university graduates and manufacturing startups who have all noted the need and appreciation for the training program.
We hit all of our targets in terms of expected interest and number of applicants and the good news is that we completely exceeded our expectation of high quality applicants. Our successful students represent a broad mix of emerging manufacturing startups from furniture makers, medical technology, building construction, advanced manufacturing, sports and leisure, music technology, creative practitioners and sustainable energy startups. Applicants come from a variety of backgrounds from industrial design degrees to personal interest, inventors, entrepreneurs and parallel professions.

The most common feedback from our cohort of 50 product startups and emerging manufacturers was:
• They highly appreciate commercially orientated industry training and support.
• They feel isolated from the business incubator world. Most fall into the ‘other’ category.
• They have significant knowledge gaps due to the broad scope of skills a manufacturing startup needs compared to a desk orientated business.
• Everyone was surprised at the age, gender and cultural mix of students.
• The range of product concepts that students are developing is very broad and exciting.

Our LaunchVic funded Bench to Business courses will begin in the first week of September and continue through to April next year. We will keep you posted with updates and hopefully with the permission from some of our students, show you some of the exciting product ideas they are developing.

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