Around 140 people attended the launch of Fire Station 101, the new innovation hub in Ipswich, Qld. The event reflected the ethos of Fire Station 101 and what is needed for success of the hub in the local community.
Respecting the fires of our past
We were honoured to have the proceedings open with a smoking ceremony to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land. It was my first time observing a smoking ceremony, and to experience it in a fire station passing from old to new was a once-in-lifetime event. The burn mark in the concrete floor is now a symbol of respect embedded in the cultural fabric of the hub.
We also had in attendance a contingent from the fire department who had worked in the fire station. I will admit to getting a bit emotional as they symbolically drove away in their fire truck with lights flashing and sirens blaring to mark the passing of ownership.
Innovation needs to respect the past that came before. The hype around “disruption” needs to be metered with a consideration for those who are being disrupted. Without understanding, we may not realise that what we label as disruption may simply be recreating mistakes of the past in new ways.
I took a few members of the fire department on a tour of Fire Station 101 a few days before the launch. I excitedly pointed to the shared working space in the back of the hub, and they educated me about a room where they slept when they were on-call to keep Ipswich safe. I took them further down the hall to show them a collaboration space, and they showed me where they shared meals and built relationships around a small TV in the corner. As I showed them the view of Ipswich from the back windows, they pointed out the chunks missing from a concrete pillar where one of their team backed a fire engine into the building.
As we advance new innovations, I believe it is critical we get a “reverse tour” of the land we are occupying. We will rapidly lose our way if we do not have an understanding of and respect for what came before.
Igniting the fires of our future
An innovation hub is a form of a “third space” that is not work or home, but a safe place where community happens. At Fire Station 101, that community is focused on the success of the entrepreneur who then creates individual resiliency, local economic outcomes and new technologies that can scale globally.
Igniting these outcomes requires broad community support, which we saw in the launch of Fire Station 101. We had the support of all levels of government, with video statements at the Federal level by Hon Wyatt Roy MP, Assistant Minister for Innovation, and at the State level by Hon Leeanne Enoch, Minister for Innovation, Science and the Digital Economy and Minister for Small Business.
At the local government level, the support from Ipswich City Council demonstrates an exciting model for initiating local innovation hubs. The vision and support from across the executive team and Ipswich Mayor Paul Pisale has been instrumental in making Fire Station 101 a reality.
As the name implies, innovation hubs act as a central nexus, but have no value without the supporting ecosystem. The representation from this ecosystem at the launch was humbling.
We were honoured to launch the event with a statement by Steven Baxter, entrepreneur and founder of Brisbane innovation hub River City Labs. Others who attended came from Towoomba, Brisbane, and the Gold Coast and included investors, mentors, founders, accelerators, academics, partners, and corporate leaders. Through the morning, the common question I heard from everyone was: “How can we help?”
Everyone’s focus was on the real stars of the morning: the 20 entrepreneurs who signed up almost sight unseen to give it a go. I had the honour of sharing some of the profiles of these members who represent the diversity of strengths in Ipswich, including everyday people giving it a go, professionals disrupting their own professions, and projects in three emerging themes of virtual reality, smart digital city, and social impact.
Learning together as a community
The “101” in Fire Station 101 represents more than just our address of 101 Limestone street. The number is indicative of the learning journey we as a collective community are all on. The hub is a startup like the many members who will pass through our doors. We operate lean, we are all-in, we measure what matters, and we will pivot and adapt based on feedback we get from our customers.
Given we are open 7 days per week, 24 hours per day, I was working around 9:00 a few nights after the launch. I looked to my left to see Lex working on his platform in the Virtual Reality studio. I got up and walked down the hall to see Dan working on his web project and Braycen building his game in preparation for submission to a global competition in the hopes of competing in the US. In the board room at the end of the hall, Ann-Marie was preparing for her upcoming focus group to test her platform on her target market of teachers and parents.
Everyone was quiet and focused, but you could feel the energy as they created something new that has value in their respective markets. This energy is contagious and inspires the entire community of mentors, investors, partners, and volunteers to come alongside to ask long after launch: “How can we help?”
If you fit into one of the categories of member, mentor, investor, partner, or volunteer and you want to know more about how you can be a part of Fire Station 101, please drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.