University of Melbourne signed on as founding partner in Cremorne Digital Hub

The University of Melbourne is a founding partner in an innovation incubator that convenes talent from business, industry, academia and technology to generate new pathways for innovation, opportunity and growth in the digital economy.

Cremorne Digital Hub was established as a consortium, with the Victorian government committing $10 million to the project. Founding partners also include alternative investment firm Artesian – which has backed 650 start-ups in five countries – along with RMIT and La Trobe universities.

Located in Melbourne’s inner east on the edge of the CBD, the suburb of Cremorne has emerged as Victoria’s fastest growing technology precinct with over 700 businesses and more than 10,000 workers.

Melbourne’s academic lead for the Hub Adrian Pearce from the School of Computing and Information Systems says digital innovation lies at the heart of the Cremorne Digital Hub concept.

“Perhaps it will nurture creation of the next ‘Uber’ or robot design. But its application is intended to be broader and to impact a cross-section of sectors from agriculture to the arts.

“Examples of this kind of work already underway at the University of Melbourne are plentiful, with researchers exploring ethical issues at the cross-disciplinary Centre for AI and Digital Ethics, the development of transformative solutions for patient treatment and recovery in the Melbourne Biomedical Precinct, or the pioneering digital agriculture work in the Faculty of Veterinary and Agricultural Sciences," Professor Pearce says.

The University has also developed a robust commercialisation ecosystem, enabling entrepreneurs to commercialise their research quicker.

“Spin-out venture Apromore is an example,” he says. “The team spent nearly a decade collaborating globally to create software that uses artificial intelligence to improve business processes. The software has now been commercialised as Apromore, a separate company that has secured $22.6 million through Series A and B fundraising.”

Because of this funding boost Apromore can enable organisations to unlock business value in their processes, and the core of the software remains open-source, enabling anybody to study, change and redistribute the tool.

FinTech company Airwallex is another success story. After starting a café a group of Melbourne graduates discovered first-hand the impact high foreign transaction (FX) fees and banking costs have on small business profit margins. In response they founded Airwallex, a financial services platform providing foreign exchange transactions. Airwallex is the fastest Australian company to achieve a valuation of $1 billion, and it now works in partnership with the University to sponsor access, exposure, and career opportunities for technology students.

“These two success stories highlight what is possible locally,” Professor Pearce says. “Rather than entrepreneurs moving to Silicon Valley or London to meet their growth needs, it’s intended that Cremorne Digital Hub will enable them to tap into support, distribution and funding networks in Melbourne. The Cremorne Digital Hub improves ‘front door’ opportunities for industry to plug-in and partner with Melbourne experts working across the digital space.”

In addition to entrepreneurial backing through the Cremorne Venture Fund, users receive end-to-end support for innovation and commercialisation, and access to distribution and market pathways, events, pitch sessions, and scale-up workshops.

First published on 1 August 2023.

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