In his fabled 2005 TED speech, Charles Leadbeater introduced the power of open innovation, a movement that saw breakthrough ideas spring from individuals working outside the structures of existing businesses. A decade on, this idea has given rise to a generation of innovators who use collaborative processes, left-field thinking and a rapid-fire timeframe to break new ground.
PwC is no stranger to this concept. In 2013, the Digital Change team worked with Transport for New South Wales to launch App Hot House, a program that invited talented developers to conceive real-time bus apps in 48 hours. And in September last year, we joined forces with the University of Western Sydney as well as Cisco, Google Australia and the NSW Government to roll out the Western Sydney Open Innovation pilot, a program that saw teams tackle crises impacting this sprawling region with winners participating in a 12-week program designed to achieve an accelerated outcome. The solutions, which were showcased at an event in December and span everything from an exchange that consolidates geocoded data to teleworking hubs that cancel out long commutes, speak for themselves.
Teleworking hubs designed to eliminate long commutes
It’s no secret that spending hours travelling to and from work can impact your quality of life. That’s why CoActiv8, a startup comprising Brad Krauskopf and Caroline McLaren, made it its mission to connect workers forced to commute from homes in Western Sydney with teleworking hubs in their local area via an integrated booking platform. The team tested the fundamentals of this concept during Smart Work Week, an event that saw 37 people working from 12 Smart Work Centres in Greater and Western Sydney for one day. The participants each saved 80 minutes in commuting time and $8.60 with two-thirds reporting gains in productivity.
Sustainable food solutions address unhealthy local diets
Sometimes, maintaining a diet heavy on sustainable ingredients and local, fresh produce isn’t a matter of choice. In some areas of Western Sydney as well as parts of the UWS Campus, the lack of sustainable food providers and the high quota of fast food options create challenges when it comes to good nutrition.
For joint winners Harvest Hub, a social enterprise providing Sydney communities with homegrown produce and Ooooby, a commons-based business that pairs producers with consumers while ensuring that farmers are rewarded fairly, the solution involved a weekly farmers market that pooled the efforts of students and community groups and a partnership with university body UWS Connect with the aim to sell ready-to-eat organic salads on campus. Harvest Hub sold almost two tonnes of fresh fruit and vegetables and made over $8,000 in the course of 12 weeks. And Ooooby sold out of its salads and tapped into a growing local awareness of the importance of healthy eating – it plans to start a student enterprise that delivers lunches and organic boxes to workplaces and homes in Western Sydney in the next 12 months.
A central data exchange to host accurate geocoded information
The fact that multiple organisations collect and store geocoded information creates serious barriers when it comes to tracking down an obscure address or hard-to-find business. For Addwrestlers, a startup helmed by data expert Dr Laura Kostanski, Rob Atkinson, a trailblazer in the spatial delivery of data and mobile developer Houman Kargaran, a platform enabling data input from various sources as well as the exchange of valuable geocoded data (such as the number of buildings on a property) is the boldest solution. During the 12-week period, AddWrestlers partnered with Commonwealth Government agencies to fully grasp the impact of incomplete and incorrect geocoded files. It also identified opportunities for corporates to better serve their customers by improving their geocoded address files, paving the way for a project that helps the Commonwealth Department of Communication improve data quality and explore the potential of open data.
An online talent platform brings innovation to the health sector
In Western Sydney, health professionals are grappling with major skills shortages in areas such as marketing, business strategy and cash flow management. For Sidekicker, a web-based startup that helps small business owners access skilled professionals on an on-demand basis, this presented a powerful opportunity to curate and refine its existing services. The Western Sydney Open Innovation Pilot also helped Sidekicker discover that their platform could connect people with disabilities with independent practitioner that could offer the health services they need. Next up, it plans to partner with health professionals and NGOs preparing for the National Disability Insurance Scheme in providing a marketplace for business support.
From improving diets in Western Sydney to supporting the struggling health industry, the Western Sydney Open Innovation Pilot sparked promising real-world results. We look forward to witnessing the ways in which the relationships and ventures that stemmed from the project contribute to the region’s evolution and growth.