TasCatalyst Project

Preparing Tasmania for the creative economy

 

MACQUARIE HOUSE INNOVATION HUB

Macquarie House, Civic Square Launceston Tasmania – artist's impression

Built in the 1830s as a warehouse and trading hub, today the Macquarie House Innovation Hub project aims to transform this striking historic building into a high tech, creative innovation hub. 
 

The Macquarie House Innovation Hub (MHIH) project is a proposal to convert the historic building into a hybrid coworking space, a burgeoning trend in the new digital economy to create flexible workplaces for innovators, startups and growing businesses. Tasmanian entrepreneurs from all industry sectors will have the opportunity to take their place in the exploding international innovation and startup scene.

It follows a model of ‘space regeneration’, epitomising a new model of coworking, where newly formed start-ups work alongside established high-growth businesses in long-term offices, and fresh-faced freelancers and smaller-scale entrepreneurs work from a flexible short-term shared space.

The MHIH initiative aims to establish a world-class collaborative workspace and innovation hub in the center of Launceston, giving Tasmania a business support facility on a par with similar spaces in Australia and internationally.

Our vision:

To create a world-class collaborative workspace and innovation hub in the center of Launceston. The space will cater to freelancers, startup companies and early-career professionals; particularly those who are working in fields relating to technology and the creative industries.

SUPPORTING TASMANIAN BUSINESS IN THE NEW ECONOMY

Through coworking, business development, start-up support, mentoring and community engagement activities, the Macquarie House Innovation Hub will generate productivity in the region’s economy, improve regional retention of skilled information technology graduates and support the development of a world class technology innovation sector in Tasmania.

The historic Macquarie House building will be the centre of an ecosystem linking Tasmania to the global entrepreneurship community providing the potential for fundamentally new economic activity in Tasmania.
 

WHY A HUB REALLY WORKS

Coworking spaces are serendipity engines – they amplify innovation in a region by enabling small businesses, startup companies and freelancers to share a space and easily make connections between people and ideas.

From public to private, community to commercial, and back again.

Tasmania already has an established community of software and technology entrepreneurs, freelance developers, and designers who are currently dispersed throughout the state, working from home, or working from offices in small teams.

The Macquarie House coworking space would bring many of these existing practitioners into one place as they travel around Tasmania, creating a focal point for technology innovation in Launceston. It will also provide a base of operations for business people who travel through Launceston; particularly those who are members of other coworking spaces closer to home.
 

WHY THIS MAKES SENSE FOR TASMANIA

Here are just a few of the reasons that we think the Macquarie House Innovation Hub makes sense for Tasmania and is a project worth supporting. 

Creative industries are becoming increasingly vitalGrowth and success are tied to human capital, rather than specialised infrastructure. The most successful regions in the digital/creative economy are those that nurture their innovators and entrepreneurs.

The freelance community is growing. Some of the most innovative and successful products in the modern economy are being developed by small teams and networks of freelancers.

Niche products are being sold to the world. Online commerce has turned niche markets into an opportunity for regional specialisation to turn into global commercial success.

How we work is changing. Innovative people consider flexibility, dynamic working environments, being surrounded by good people and working on great projects as being considerably more important than salary.

There is an existing user community. The interest from a number of successful local tech entrepreneurs (who are currently developing products for international clients), who are not only excited about moving their business into such a space but who are also looking forward for an opportunity to help mentor the next generation, has been established through market research.

Government support. $3 million to refurbish Macquarie House and equip the building has been allocated by the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development, pending the Department’s value for money and risk assessments. Launceston City Council, the owners of Macquarie House, signed a Memorandum of Understanding to develop the project. The project also aligns with the Tasmanian and Federal Government’s policies for supporting entrepreneurship and innovation.

Positive synergies with domestic industries and the University of Tasmania. Primary industries and advanced manufacturing, health, community services and higher education are seeking to connect with tech-start-ups and Macquarie House will provide a focal point for that sort of interaction.  The project also aligns well with major UTAS initiatives, including the HITLab, SenseT and the Northern Health Initiative.

Prime location. The striking Macquarie House was built in 1830s as a warehouse and trading hub. Its four open-plan floors lend itself to coworking and its site in Launceston’s CBD positions it within the economic heart of northern Tasmania.  This project will take one of the oldest and most historically significant buildings in the region and transform it into the one of the most modern and connected sites in the city of Launceston.
 

TARGET OUTCOMES

Business Growth: The Macquarie House Innovation Hub aims to have a long term positive effect on employment and business outcomes in Tasmania. Research indicates that innovation jobs have a multiplier effect on the creation of other local jobs. 

Sector Development: The Macquarie House Innovation Hub will become the centre of growing start-up ecosystem, building relationships between the start-ups and sales and marketing partners, customers, management team and employees, research and development, universities, early stage company infrastructure, incubators / accelerators, professional advisers, funding, government, mentors, and family and friends. 

Job Creation and Retention: Those working at the Macquarie House Innovation Hub will come from the existing community of innovators in Tasmania. Job retention of start-ups will be a key part of the Macquarie House Innovation Hub by providing a comparable culture of entrepreneurialism and opportunity as that offered by hubs in major Australian cities, combined with Tasmania’s undisputed liveability. 

Community Outreach: The Community Support Person will develop diversity within the sector and encourage ease of access into the start-up community for young people, older people and retirees, as well as help create a diverse coworking space. Volunteering will be embraced to further diversify the skills and backgrounds of people coworkers interact with and to provide interesting and meaningful volunteering opportunities.
 

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BUSINESS MODEL

The proposed fees for this access as are:

Private Office: 
$1,800 per month

Full Time Member: 
$450 per month

Part Time Member: 
$225 per month

Casual Access: 
$50 per day
 

Private offices would be approximately 25 square metres and would provide private, lockable space for businesses that want to work within the hub, but have a greater degree of privacy and control over their space than more open plan spaces provide.

Full time members would work from open plan spaces, but would have some ownership of a desk and working area, enabling them to leave their equipment set up for the duration of their membership.  Part time and casual members will be able to easily swap in and out of hot desks, but won’t generally have a specific space to call their own.
 

SCHOLARSHIPS

Industry and government funded scholarships will be available to create a bridge for those who would benefit from the facility but are unable to afford the membership fees. Scholarships will be targeted to ensure the community is diverse and inclusive, with a balance between youth and experience.

The scholarship program would enable those who wanted to work from the space an opportunity to do so. In this way, early career professionals would be able to gain access to the space, the infrastructure and the community, even if they weren’t able to afford the membership fees. The program will enable authentic learning and mentorship and will help build a strong foundation for the next generation of innovators and entrepreneurs in the Launceston region.
 

PROJECT STATUS

In late 2013 the Macquarie House Innovation Hub project received a funding announcement of $3 million to renovate Macquarie House and tailor the building for its new life as a coworking space for Tasmanian innovators and entrepreneurs.

The Macquarie House Innovation Hub committee are currently working with the Launceston City Council and the Australian Government to work through a value for money and risk assessment process, which is a necessary process prior to any federal funding being made available for building and construction works.

If we can get over the next couple of hurdles, then the intention is for the Macquarie House Innovation Hub to be the subject of a collaborative design process, in which potential members, stakeholders and supporters are invited to help shape how the project will evolve over the coming months.
 

GET IN TOUCH!

If you are excited about the potential for this initiative, please send us an email and let us know what you see ahead and the benefits you could derive for your business. 

Contact us:

contact@catalyst-project.com.au

 

Watch James Riggall’s talk on Innovation in Regions at TEDxLaunceston 2013

James Riggall considers the role of innovation in a regional economy, and presents a project which not only capitalises on one regions past, but leverages it to help create the regions future. James is a Tasmanian entrepreneur who found his start as a teacher at the Human Interface Technology Laboratory (HITLab) in Launceston.