A new incubation program and co-working space for Australian startups looking to expand into Asia has launched in Melbourne with a possible $80 million in funding.
The Jiangsu-Victoria Innovation Centre is the result of a Memorandum of Understanding signed between China-based Suzhou High-Tech Venture Capital Group and the City of Melbourne, Australia-China Association of Scientists and Entrepreneurs (ACASE), RMIT University and the University of Melbourne earlier this year.
The centre will offer a three to five month incubator program for local startups, along with co-working space, mentorship, and access to Suzhou High-Tech Venture Capital Group’s $80 million fund, which is currently being raised.
The centre leverages the sister-province status of Victoria and Jiangsu, a relationship that dates to 1979. The innovation centre will provide coaching, market information and entrepreneurial guidance to participants.
ACASE is a Melbourne-based not-for-profit led by founder and chief executive Frank Fu, who said the incubator program will help Australian startups get a foot in the door in Asia, and specifically China.
“The program will help them to develop IT protection strategies and marketing plans,” Dr Fu told InnovationAus.com.
“We hope that through the program they will be better prepared to get to China. China is the second largest and fastest growing market – we have to look to China and the advantages there,”
The centre is located on Queen Street in the Melbourne CBD and opened at the end of last week. The incubator will also offer mentorship and connections with universities, research centres and accelerators in Asia.
“There are lots of co-working spaces in Melbourne and Australia, but we are unique. We want to work with the local ecosystem,” Dr Fu said.
“We want to be embedded into the ecosystem and work with the local co-working spaces and accelerators. Then we can have their startups come into our space and look at going into the China market,” he said.
Suzhou High-Tech Venture Capital Group has also pledged to provide up to $80 million – split into a $20 million angel fund and a $40-60 million venture capital fund – to the innovation centre and its local startups.
Acting lord mayor of Melbourne Arron Wood said it’s a coup for the Melbourne startup and tech sectors.
“This Jiangsu-Victoria Innovation Centre will nurture the next generation of innovators and entrepreneurs to go on to great things. The incubation space will provide expert business development guidance and the potential to export ideas to the world,” Mr Wood said.
The innovation centre is the result of months of work between the participating partners, City of Melbourne’s Prosperous City chair Kevin Louey said.
“For many years the City of Melbourne has worked tirelessly to help connect our businesses to the largest economy in the world,” Mr Louey said.
The incubator’s first cohort of startups will be selected from ACASE’s Sunan Cup competition winners, which were revealed earlier this year.
The City of Melbourne has become increasingly active in the startup space of late after revealing its Startup Action Plan in June. The Council said it aims to “help innovators and entrepreneurs to realise their dreams of starting, growing and going global with their small businesses”.
Included in the plan was an intent to work closely with the Victorian government to make office space more affordable, an extension of small business grants, better events and to connect startups with industry.