A-Lab Incubate 2018: hatching wild ideas

Where do great ideas come from? Is it through “Eureka!” moments of ground-breaking discovery? Geniuses who have sudden flashes of insight? Or are ideas and innovation the products of persistent processes borne out of observation, collaboration and hard work?

At A-Lab Incubate 2018, it seems the best ideas are hatched from both.

Held at Melbourne Zoo, ten teams selected from 40 applications came together over three days to work on world-first projects and initiatives to create Australia’s clean energy future.

ARENA’s A-Lab events are commercially driven workshops that bring together industry professionals with first-hand knowledge of Australia’s energy system. Participants find allies, build alliances and strengthen their commercial acumen to innovate and grow the renewables sector.

Projects at Incubate 2018 ranged from increasing rooftop solar and storage integration in multi-metered buildings to improving access to renewable energy for low-income households.

One of the best features of ARENA’s A-Labs is the focus placed on cross-sector collaboration. Access to industry professionals, energy retailers, distributors, market operators, tech gurus, regulators, lawyers and investors enable ambitious projects that require a broad range of expertise to flourish.

Alex McIntosh, Manager, Business Development and Transactions at ARENA said the beauty of this collaboration is evident during the event and through the ongoing value these connections create.

“One of the unique aspects of A-Lab is our ability to bring together all key stakeholders within industry in the one room. Teams appreciated the opportunity to cross-pollinate ideas and smash their assumptions by testing and refining concepts with leading industry experts,” Alex McIntosh said.

On Day 2, teams tested their approaches with to discern if they were technically and commercially viable by engaging in direct customer interviews and a high-energy “speed dating” exercise to promote their project to industry experts.

Presenter interacting with A-Lab participants
Presenter interacting with A-Lab participants.

The final challenge was to put the learnings into action. As the saying goes “Ideas are cheap. Execution is everything.” After two days of ideation and collaboration, Day 3 saw teams quantify the value of their projects.

Following a panel discussion with seasoned investors from ARENA, CEFC, Giant Leap and Southern Cross Ventures, each team was each given five minutes to pitch their project to the “Dolphin Tank”, an expert panel of the industry’s best and brightest including ARENA CEO Darren Miller, Tom Butler from AEMO’s Energy Strategy team and investor John Clifford.

After 15 A-Labs, 14 projects have been successful in receiving funding from ARENA with many more projects in the pipeline.

Ms McIntosh said, “A-Lab events set out to nurture innovation. Their success in doing so shows the value the A-Lab environment has in turning innovative ideas into viable business opportunities. Stepping away from the office, amidst the roar of elephants, and with a mind relaxed and free hanging amongst the lemurs, this A-Lab allowed the best ideas to “incubate.”