Our universities are already translating university research into real-world solutions, benefiting society and the economy. Now, with the assistance of the Breakthrough Victoria – University Innovation Platform (BVUIP), they can amplify these efforts even further.

Breakthrough Victoria has established co-investment partnerships with six universities: Deakin University, La Trobe University, University of Melbourne, Monash University, RMIT and Swinburne University of Technology.

These partnerships comprise of matched funding between each university and Breakthrough Victoria to drive commercialisation of their research through investment in startups.

One purpose of these newly established partnerships is to invest in startup companies emerging from research conducted within these universities. Each partnership will make pre-seed investments of about $500,000 to nurture these startups.

Beyond the financial investment, the second purpose of these partnership is to enhance our research and innovation ecosystem for the benefit of a wide range of groups, from students to investors.

For researchers: Navigating the path to market

For researchers prepared to turn their work into real-world solutions, these pre-seed partnerships offer a clear path forward, providing a practical and well-supported way to bring research innovations out of the lab and into the market.

These partnerships are designed to help researchers cross the challenging "valley of death" - the phase referring to the area between academic research and practical applications in industry.

For former founders and venture creators: Sharing the entrepreneurial journey

Not every researcher aims to become a startup CEO or has the expertise to create new ventures. That's where former founders will come in.

Many successful entrepreneurs have faced failure before achieving success, learning invaluable lessons along the way.

Pre-seed partnerships act as bridges, allowing former founders to share their entrepreneurial experience and industry knowledge with emerging startups.

The teams at universities supporting this partnership will be looking for former founders with deep industry knowledge who could be partnered with researchers to offer essential venture-building skills, helping these early-stage ventures thrive.

For PhD students: Igniting inspiration

Traditionally, the path from research to industry was a step into the dark. By witnessing successful spinouts and investments firsthand, the seeds of what is possible can grow in the minds of the next generation.

Hopefully, the ripple-effect of these activities, spinouts and partnerships will be alternative career paths for PhD students - from commercialising their PhD research to joining deep tech startups or learning the art of investing in tech ventures.

For students: Becoming job creators

Pre-seed partnerships and newly established ventures will also provide students with valuable internship opportunities during their university years. This hands-on experience will equip them with practical skills and an entrepreneurial mindset. It not only enhances their employability but also empowers them to become creators of jobs, contributing to both the economy and society.

For startups: The fuel to grow

Startups involved in commercialising university intellectual property may become eligible for investments from relevant pre-seed partnerships. This funding is crucial for early-stage product development, prototyping, market validation, and scaling.

For early-stage Investors: A growing pipeline of opportunities

By providing pre-seed investment to spinouts, the partnerships will be creating a larger pipeline of investable companies for follow-on investors. This initial funding will help startups develop their products, validate their market potential, and reach key milestones.

By engaging with follow-on investors early and asking, "What does the next round look like?" the partnerships teams will be able to plan and align the pre-seed investments to ensure that the startups are well-prepared for subsequent rounds of funding.

Cultivating an entrepreneurial culture: The chicken or the egg?

The question of whether pre-seed investments or a culture shift should come first is like the classic "chicken or egg" puzzle. Within universities, it's a dynamic relationship. Pre-seed partnerships have already catalysed a cultural shift, attracting and investing in entrepreneurial talent, a sight rarely seen just a few years ago. Imagine seeing a position of venture creator being advertised by a university five years ago?

By fostering more interactions between entrepreneurs and researchers and exposing researchers to entrepreneurial concepts, universities are creating an environment where both groups can work together and learn from each other.

This cross-pollination of ideas and expertise is driving the transformation of scientific discoveries into practical solutions, benefiting society and the economy.

So, BVUIP isn't just about investments; it's about catalysing at scale; its a transformative journey for researchers, entrepreneurs, students, startups, investors, and universities themselves, all contributing to a brighter future for Victoria's entrepreneurial landscape.

About the Author

Dr Olga Hogan is the Senior Director of Pre-seed at Breakthrough Victoria. She drives the development of Breakthrough Victoria – University Innovation Platform across our state and is an investment professional with over 15 years of experience across Europe, Asia and Australia. She is a fellow chartered accountant, has completed a PhD in Theoretical Chemistry at Oxford University, and has extensive experience around early-stage investing in university research spin-outs.

Read more about Breakthrough Victoria – University Innovation Platform announcement here: University Innovation Platform — September 2023