NSW joins space race with national hub at Cicada Innovations

Brandon How

A National Space Industry Hub and accompanying mentorship program has been launched in Sydney as a joint initiative between the New South Wales government and Deep Tech incubator Cicada Innovations.

Cicada received a $2.1 million investment from the state to set up the hub at the Australian Technology Park in Eveleigh, the heart of Sydney’s Tech Central precinct. The hub is an expansion of an ecosystem that Cicada has fostered at this venue for more than 20 years.

On offer is office spaces, labs, rapid prototyping equipment, connections, and mentoring through the Fast Start program.

Cicada Innovations chief executive Sally-Ann Williams

Current tenants at the hub include the Space Industry Association of Australia, the NSW Space Research Network, the NSW node of the SmartSat Cooperative Research Centre (CRC), space mapping firm Leo Labs, and robotics startup Mawson Rovers.

The plan to create a space hub was announced in December 2018 with the intent to consolidate the space sector in Sydney, and has since been incorporated into the NSW space industry development strategy. The state is home to 38 per cent of Australian space startups.

Also invested under the NSW plan was $1.4 million to set up the Space Research Network, and support for the SmartSat CRC node based at the hub.

The NSW strategy aligns with the federal government’s broader Australian Civil Space Strategy to double the number of space jobs to 20,000 and more than triple the market size from $3.9 million to $12 million by 2030.

Besides what can be accessed inhouse, Cicada also offers access to facilities housed at its shareholder universities. This is namely the Australian National University, the University of New South Wales, the University of Sydney, and the University of Technology Sydney.

Further leveraging on Cicada’s long-term embeddedness in the space industry has been the launch of its Fast Start program. This is a sixth month intense coaching program to help early-stage space startups commercialise their ideas.

Unlike an accelerator program, participants will not receive any seed funding , but has a strong focus on a bespoke mentoring experiences, no matter how early a stage of commercialisation the business they are at.

Firms will be coached by the hub’s expert-in-residence and current Space Industry Association of Australia chair Dr Tim Parsons. Dr Parsons brings a network of emerging space tech companies, innovation consultants, defence networks, government, and venture capital.

Participants will also work with Cicada head of space technology Julie Autuly who has previously worked at the European and French space agencies.

The program accepts applicants on a rolling basis, and Cicada Innovations chief executive officer Sally-Ann Williams encouraged any ambitious space business founders to apply.

“It’s really important that across Australia we have amazing innovation in the space sector. It’s equally important that we all come together and remember that our competition isn’t between states or between individual organisations, it’s international,” Ms Williams said.

“That’s why we’re so excited to play our part and support the amazing organisations and founders in Australia,” she said.

“Most accelerator programs don’t have the advantage of a physical location filled with Deep Tech entrepreneurs that are around 24/7. We have a cohort and a community that has been here for decades, which is something we can tap into at any time.”

In December 2021, the South Australian government announced a $20 million dollar partnership with four space companies for the construction of a space manufacturing hub, the Australian Space Park.

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

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