“An innovator amongst incubators”: Cicada Innovations named world’s top incubator


Petra Andrén (2nd from left) with members of her Cicada Innovations team

Sydney deep tech incubator, Cicada Innovations, has been named ‘Top Incubator in the World’ by global peak industry association for entrepreneurship programs, the International Business Innovation Association (InBIA).

[Related: Now that more capital is available to deep tech startups, they need better access to makerspace: Cicada Innovations’ CEO]

Finalists were selected from over 2,200 InBIA member incubators, accelerators, and entrepreneurship centres from across the globe, with Cicada Innovations being the only Australian in the running.

Applicants were assessed across economic and social impact-based metrics, including the number of startup entrants and successful exits, jobs created, patents filed, new products and services launched, investment dollars received, value and impact of companies created and depth of collaboration.

In addition to being named the Top Incubator in the World at the InBIA Awards held in Dallas, Texas, Cicada innovations was also shortlisted in the categories of “Top Technology Incubator in the World” and “Top Super Incubator in the World” awards. Ahead of the event, the Redfern-based incubator also won InBIA’s “February 2018 Technology Incubator of the Month”.

According to Petra Andrén, CEO of Cicada Innovations, the incubator snared the top gong at the InBIA awards by proving a focus on the industries of the future, including taking an innovative, holistic, long-term, and program-driven approach to supporting and growing startups.

“This award is strong validation of Cicada’s unique “program-driven” business model, and our position as the home of deep technology in Australia,” she told Dynamic Business. “It is also serious acknowledgement of the amazing community of entrepreneurs and innovators we house within the incubator – they are truly world-leading!

“We would like to thank our shareholder universities – USYD, ANU, UTS, UNSW. Their constant connection with and support of us allows us to gain access to some of Australia’s best capabilities, talent, and research. This constant flow of science-based innovation and research into the incubator is what allows us to consistently build and nurture businesses with the potential to truly change the world.

“We will continue to push the envelope by launching ever-more-specialised accelerator programs in more industry sectors and we will use our shareholder universities to place talent into our companies when they are ready to scale. In this way, Cicada will continue to be a literal embodiment of the government’s National Innovation and Science Agenda.”

Andrén said the primary point of difference at Cicada is its program-driven leadership in deep technologies that are solving  some of the world’s greatest challenges, such as food security, climate change, and an aging population.

“These innovative technologies… need longer time to market, and greater access to domain expertise and STEM talent to scale,” she said.  “This is where Cicada’s shareholder universities and its ecosystem of industry partners and local and overseas investors come into play.

“Being program-driven and taking a ‘create, validate, and incubate’ approach allows us to provide longer-term support until our promising startups reach scale-up phase, which can take many years.

“We ‘create’ businesses by sourcing world-changing IP and qualified researchers and tech founders through commercialisation training programs, such as the Medical Device Commercialisation Training Program (MDTCP) for medtech.

“We then ’validate’ their proof of concept by running businesses through specialised accelerator programs, testing early stage ideas for real-world applications, before considering them for long-term incubation. Our GrowLab accelerator program is an example of one such program that feeds directly into the Cicada incubator.

“Once residing inside Cicada, we ‘incubate’ these businesses through access to specialised infrastructure such as labs, hardware spaces, and cleanrooms. They also receive tailored business support services such as mentorship programs from alumni founder entrepreneurs and domain experts offering free assistance on such matters as legal or IP requirements, networking events, easy access to talent in the form of PhD placement programs, access to highly specialized capabilities from our University shareholders, and much more.”

Cicada Innovations is the only incubator in Australia to be classified as a “super hub” by InBIA, which defines one as a hub that blends “several models of entrepreneurial growth into a single location, supporting technology entrepreneurs with a wide range of critical services” throughout their entrepreneurial journey until graduation.

Noting that Innovation is “doing things differently and doing them better”, Alan Kinkel, Australia’s Chief Scientist, described Cicada Innovations as “an innovator amongst incubators”. He explained, “[They’re] doing it differently through their programs to attract the best commercialisable ideas, and doing it better by using alumni and industry experts to provide business, legal and financial acumen to the founders to support their validated scientific ideas.”