DSC_1092_editedIn June last year, Collabforge led a consortium to win a contract with the Australian Department of Industry. The focus was to build the Industry Innovation Network, a nationwide community and online platform for Australian innovators. What attracted us to the project was its purpose: to help Australia become a more competitive and innovative nation by engendering a more collaborative culture. Australia lags behind other developed countries in terms of local industry collaboration for innovation. As a nation, we also score poorly on innovation efficiency. While we have institutional and scientific strengths, these don’t always translate into business performance. In order to do this, the Industry Innovation Network was created to serve as a non-industry specific central hub of knowledge, collaboration and networking for innovators. This network was branded as Project Leap, and was created to sit alongside industry-specific precincts as a central hub of resources to provide further content where appropriate and be open to the wider public. The first two industry precincts developed were META for manufacturing and Fial for food. Our challenge was to leverage technology to enable high quality communication and collaboration between and among firms, government, education and research institutions. Collabforge tackled this enormous task with two distinct but interrelated elements:

1. Technology: we developed an online platform to aid collaboration, and provide a space for resources and information for collaborators

2. Community: we designed a process and model for engaging firms and building communities of interest

Phase 1 of the program ended on 31 March. Read about the future of the program on the Project Leap website here.

During Phase 1, we felt we managed to accomplish some big things that all fit into the larger puzzle of enabling Australia’s innovators. These are:

DSC_0210_edited1. Supporting two industry precincts

Collabforge helped foster and support META and Fial, the first two industry precincts of the project. Our work with both precincts included strategy, community engagement, training precinct staff and building a bespoke online space.

2. Project Leap

Under the Project Leap umbrella, we:

– ran high value events (listed below) – made progress on implementing a unique online collaboration space – catalysed and engaged with a community of top-level thinkers within Australia’s innovation space – facilitated communication between members of this community to lead to further projects and collaboration.

3. Leap Workshops

2014-02-10 16.03.26_Edited_FBAs part of Project Leap, we designed an accelerated team innovation workshop. Teams that have already gone through the process came from organisations such as Telstra, NAB, Lend Lease, ANZ Bank, VicHealth, Victorian Department of Justice and City of Melbourne CityLab. To ensure each half-day workshop was high value, we enlisted the help of innovation experts within our own networks, such as Bonnie Shaw, Richard Harmer, Julian Waters-Lynch and Alan Dormer. Follow-up with each team proved the exercise was extremely useful, with some teams already making great progress on their innovation leap.

4. Zip Breakfasts


To provide access to some of the fantastic innovation thought leaders in our network, we ran Zip Breakfast events with a speaker discussing an innovation capability to a highly curated group. Each breakfast was filmed with content made available to the wider innovation community, and received only positive feedback from all involved.

5. Collabco

Perhaps the largest feat that we’ve achieved over the past few months was developing Collabco, an open-source online platform for collaboration. Collabco’s features include conversations (similar to forums), groups, knowledge management, content-rich public facing web portals and the ability to contact other members to make connections. The platform was developed based on open source tools so that new features can be developed rapidly using off-the-shelf modules, can be adapted for new contexts and with no licensing fees. The technical architecture has been fully documented, and comprehensive user guides have been developed for community managers to drive uptake of the platform.

6. Open source code base

The Collabco platform was based on the Drupal open source software framework. The code for Collabco has been released under an open source license, and is freely downloadable. This means that any web developer can use and improve Collabco. We’re currently in the process of packaging up Collabco to make it even easier to use.

While we are only just beginning this journey, we can already see through the Industry Innovation Network how much interest (and need) there is for a system to help raise all boats in our Australian innovation ecosystem. While IIN is on pause, we have big ideas to transfer Collabco to other industries, ideas and initiatives, and to continue running the Zip Breakfast and Leap Workshop events under a different umbrella. So stay tuned…

What to do next

Find out more and download materials from the Leap Workshop that Hailey Cooperrider designed for Project Leap Watch our Zip Breakfast talks on innovation with Sarah Pearson, William Richardson, Tim Horton, Andrew Birt & Marcus Westbury Get in touch with the team