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Committee for Geelong's Weekly Addy Opinion Piece - Runway Geelong

It is increasingly clear to people both within and outside the Geelong community that our city has shifted gears.  Attitudes in Geelong are increasingly positive and commentary around an emerging technology community is not hearsay or rumour - it is real, vibrant and it is growing. There are many established software business and IT organisations in Geelong with impressive track records, and there are also some very exciting initiatives about to emerge.

 Runway: the Geelong start-up program is a fantastic example of this. Aimed at creating an innovation hub in our region, Runway is focussed on cultivating and growing emerging start-ups.  The business name comes from the amount of time a start-up has to launch, based on their financial burn rate.

The Runway vision originally started as the Silicon Bay Project, and the concept has now been refined and focussed into a business plan by a dedicated team with a common vision of transforming our region into a thriving ecosystem, supporting start-up entrepreneurs and their commercial ideas.  These ideas could be from fields such as education, medical, technology or biotech to name a few.  Runway's philosophy centres on innovation and launching start-ups with ideas that will create scalable and commercially sustainable businesses. 

Runway will help identify, resource, support and launch high potential start-ups via an entire ecosystem designed to maximise success for the start-up. Over 10 years, the initiative aims to generate more than 500 direct and 2,500 indirect jobs, create up to 70 new enterprises, more than $150 million in annual GDP and $500 million plus in cumulative asset value.

Each year, Runway will select between 10 - 15 high potential local, national and international start-ups and provide them with funding, co-working space, mentoring, training and business support programs.  This will enable each start-up to create a proof of concept and prepare them for operating an ongoing commercial business, as well as pitching for future funding to support their growth. 

The Runway initiative enjoys support across our community, including the City of Greater Geelong, the Committee for Geelong and the Geelong Chamber of Commerce.

Runway will be set up as a not-for-profit organisation and, while Federal and State Government funding is required to cover operational costs for the first four years of operation, only private investment will be used to fund the start-ups.  Runway will become a self-sustaining business by the fifth year, with revenues coming from the exit values of successful start-ups that are in turn reinvested into the next round of start-ups. 

Australia needs to innovate and create new industries and Runway is on the cusp of making that happen in our region.  Through its Smart Cities Plan, the Federal Government has outlined its vision for 'supporting productive, accessible, liveable cities that attract talent, encourage innovation and create jobs and growth'. The Runway initiative ticks all of those boxes.  The Government also says it is committed to 'smart investment, smart policy and smart technology'.  The Runway project, based in Victoria's second city, has the potential to deliver all three.

Rebecca Casson is the Committee for Geelong Chief Executive Officer. Follow the Committee for Geelong on Twitter @Comm4Geelong.



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