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Showcasing startups shaping NSW’s innovation landscape – Innovate Western Sydney 2023

Innovate Western Sydney 2023 - 14 November 2023

Within a relatively short period, entrepreneurship has taken off in the Greater Western Sydney region, with several startup services and hubs being developed for individuals interested in launching their own businesses. 

 Last week, Launch Pad welcomed over 70 attendees from all over Sydney to celebrate Innovate Western Sydney, an event showcasing the talent of the area’s emerging entrepreneurs within the technology space.  

Welcome to Country by Aunty Cindy Laws

To start the day, Aunty Cindy Laws got attendees off their feet for a vibrant Welcome to Country, sharing her story as a proud Boorooberongal and Darkinjung woman. Members of the audience were given the unique opportunity to participate in an immersive cultural ceremony, inviting good spirits for the day’s progression.

Next, Launch Pad’s Chief Entrepreneur in Residence (Jamie Pride) spoke of his experience being a part of the Launch Pad team as well as the scale and value of the programs he has taught throughout the years. 

Following this introduction, Western Sydney University’s Vice-Chancellor and President, Professor Barney Glover AO took to the stage to introduce the day’s events and highlight the increasing appetite for entrepreneurship within Western Sydney.  

 He also touched upon the fact Launch Pad have been pioneers for welcoming and delivering transformative change and opportunities to Western Sydney University students. AI and its properties were also briefly discussed and how advanced technologies continuing to imbed themselves into the university’s vision, creating an entrepreneurial ecosystem available for all students and the wider community.  

It was refreshing to how many startups Launch Pad have impacted since their operations in 2015 and the several achievements they have made in differentiating themselves, emphasising founder wellbeing and embracing AI’s capabilities. These are pivotal components to encourage and support founders from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds within the region. 

 Liza Noonan, Head of Innovation and Entrepreneurship from Investment NSW quickly shed light on what is happening within the innovation space. She individually highlighted several projects and opportunities available within the ecosystem and what the area’s growing diversity symbolises for the impending future.

Session 1: Next Gen Bioconvergence Solutions, Intersection of Biomedical and Technology

The day’s first panel session was facilitated by Entrepreneur in Residence, Adeline Chu. Adeline welcomed three panel speakers to the stage on the basis of discussing Bioconvergence Solutions and its intersection between Biomedical and Technology. 

Dr Jessica Sacher

Phage Directory & The Westmead Institute of Medical Research

Prof Daniel Catchpoole

Head of Biospecimen Research Services within the Children’s Cancer Research Unit

Dr Jeremy Kwarcinski

CEO & Co-founder iiShield

Firstly, each panellist discussed their individual developments bringing change to their community and how they have been able to build up their startups thanks to collaborations within the Greater Western Sydney region.  

 Having had a partnership with the Westmead Institute, Maria is in the process of developing a startup which holds her research of an antibiotic which helps medical professionals find and sources phages to treat patients.  

Early on, Maria talked of her robust research but her lack of connections in order to feed this idea through. In turn, she was able to connect with those out of the field and pertain and relationship within Western Sydney’s health sector in order to kickstart her developments. 

Daniel, a cancer researcher at the Children’s Hospital Westmead and lecturer at UTS for more than 20 years showcases his model. By working with developing models and utilising the properties of AI and VR, doctors are able to understand as well as visualise the unique qualities of tumours and learning from those previously treated.

Starting from garage science after years of development, iiShield is a startup working on a thermal organ protection for patients, helping surgeons operate quicker and effectively. Since launching, they have been able to attract more awareness, showcasing a current prototype for the audience to see. 

Something all panellists wished to see within the entrepreneurial space is more stories and ideas being shared across social media platforms, no matter what startup or industry you belong to. By doing so, it helps build transparency within the community, allowing stronger connections and collaborations between partners in Australia and actively demonstrates how startups can access those places needed for commercialisation. This is an especially hard task for startups within the med-tech space. 

Another discussion point was the strain of time consideration. Developing robust technology that is both clinically and medically safe takes time to be regulated. This goes hand in hand with the increasing economic, equipment and testing requirement cost to make this possible. 

Key Takeaway from Session 1

"Believe in what you are doing. Do not just assume that you cannot get through. There are people that have the same problem but you need to get them onboard first or progress together if you can."
Daniel Catchpoole

Session 2: Tech-Driven Startups Transforming Western Sydney

A quick morning tea break was held before the commencement of Session 2. Entrepreneur in Residence and Women & Multicultural Program Lead, Lucy Lin spoke to three members of Tech-Driven Startups Transforming Western Sydney.

Nikki Meller

Founder and Director, CREDuED

Joel van de Vordtenbosch

Technical Co-founder, Alter

John Fisher

Product Lead, Mastt

As a western-bred resident, Nikki is a major advocate for the region’s ongoing potential, starting a company which builds a VR learning lab to open new ways for educational learning across the board for all students.  

 Joel started Alter in 2016, leveraging the power of the gaming market whilst simultaneously creating a fun opportunity for developing VR multiplayer experiences.  

 After working in the tech space for over 8 years and been a member of a previous Ignition Startup Accelerator cohort, John has worked on Mastt, a software system for the construction industry which automates and creates reports to minimise issues such as overtime and budget constraints. 

In this session, the panel discussed the importance of building a growth mindset and talked of their unique experiences in assessing the leveraging assets of the company they deemed not to be previously maximised. 

A point which stood out as a founder was their ability to wear multiple hats at once, whether that be marketing, product development or even hiring. The panellists also discussed of the difficulty of hiring individuals to work for startups, where working alongside a founder can be tricky but very rewarding. Possessing well-rounded skills and grit pose well in being key indicators of success. 

Key Takeaway from Session 2

"It is okay to fail. Keep going and use your networks as much as possible to cultivate relationships to be a part of the community."
Nikki Meller

After the session, networking continued well into the lunch break, where deep conversations were had about the previous two sessions and interesting developments within the startup space.

Session 3: Western Sydney Innovation Ecosystem

Our final session of the day, facilitated by Liza Noonan focused on Western Sydney’s Innovation Ecosystem.

Lance Chia

Director, Investment & Innovation, Liverpool Innovation Precinct

Don Wright

Executive Director, Enterprise, Western Sydney University

Dr Katja Beirat

Head of Health Tech, Cicada Innovations

Firstly, Don introduced the Launch Pad space and its capabilities which have trained over 5000 students in entrepreneurial programs since 2015. Beyond this, Launch Pad continue to grow nationally and globally, with future ambitions and decal plans mentioning the attractiveness of the Western Sydney area expanding.  

As Head Health Tech for Cicada Innovations, Katja has been central to science and research-based innovation and has helped startups find their own pathways into the market for more than 20 years. She has assisted those from all levels of startup development and finds the quality of maturity in companies to be of the utmost advantage. 

Lance Chia the Director of Investment and Innovation for the Liverpool Precinct recounted several statistics to help put the region’s growth into perspective. It is estimated that over 50% of 20 to 36 year olds located in Western Sydney have education recognition from either a university degree or Certificate 3 to 4 onwards.  

As a community in its own right, the capabilities of the region are slowly picking up, where access to skilled workers is becoming a common barrier for further advancement. It is estimated by 2041 that 50% of the skilled workforce in Sydney will reside within the Western Sydney area. The next part of the session took the form of a Live Think Tank, where members of the audience had the opportunity to ask questions to the panel. The first question revolved around what is the best method to telling authentic stories across the ecosystem.


By integrating AI and scaling support, learning becomes easier when focusing on future steps on the road to commercialisation. Something which is just as important is creating a compelling story. By engaging with someone at a heart level, you are more likely to find the right experts for your project and move towards solving an ongoing problem.

Another topic of discussion revolved around entry points or opportunities available for startups. Don suggested that incubator spaces or programs are considered to be the ‘go-to’ entry point, however the opportunities are endless.  

A consideration a founder must not doubt is that there are many people out there who may be interested in your product and startup. Just because the first person may not able to help you, they will be there to direct you into the right direction.  

The session concluded, with attendees being escorted to Western Sydney Startup Hub located in North Parramatta for the remainder of the event. 

We would like to extend our gratitude to all our panellists, facilitators and team who were generous with their time to making it a day to remember.  

Photos by Monica Pronk.