Originally published on Co-Labs Melbourne.

Why Melbourne desperately needs affordable lab space for hire.

Australia may have managed to navigate through the GFC relatively unscathed, but the worse may be yet to come. The decline in the resources boom coupled with the offshoring of traditional manufacturing has left the future performance of the Australian economy shrouded in a cloud of uncertainty. Throw a pandemic in the and global recession into the mix, then suddenly that cloud of uncertainty starts to look much more like a category four thunderstorm of chaos.

Nonetheless, here at Co-Labs Melbourne, we like to think of ourselves as rational optimists. The decline in the resources boom may be a bit of a bummer if you’re in the resource extraction business. But for everyone else, this is a golden opportunity that can be flipped on its head. An opportunity to turn our countries fortunes around. Melbourne likes to consider itself as the intellectual capital of Australia. But if we genuinely want to call ourselves a smart city, we need to prepare ourselves for the changing needs of the community, the environment and the economy. 

Life Science: Australia’s Untapped Resource

Our biotechnology sector represents an incredible opportunity for exponential growth in Australia. Thanks to our high standard of living, highly educated workforce and high-quality research. The recent Startup Genome GSER 2020 report has also acknowledged the quality of our talent pool and the ecosystem that contributes to it. Yet this fertile landscape for exponential growth has remained relatively untapped. Due to factors such as low investment and infrastructure support, ideas move overseas along with talent, or simply remain ideas. 

As a result, we are underperforming compared to the global average. Although the biotech industry has recorded a modest growth of 2.9% in the past five years (2014-2019) in Australia, new biotech companies face significant challenges. Additionally, a recent report from IBIS World 2020 highlights that new biotech companies also face high barriers to entry and capital requirements.

Still, the GSER 2020 report has ranked Melbourne in the top 40 for global startup ecosystems. This achievement was accomplished with Melbourne based biotech startups having less financial support than found in international ecosystems (which it received a 1/10 for both activity and quality). In addition, The GSER 2020 ranked Melbourne 2/10 for infrastructure available to help early-stage biotech startups. Essentially, Melbourne biotech startups have to do more with less. Which is where we come in.

A Shared Laboratory And Co-Working Space For Biotech Businesses

Co-Labs Melbourne was born out of this need for cost-effective infrastructure support in Melbourne. We offer a unique opportunity for developing biotechnology SMEs (Small-Medium Enterprises), entrepreneurs, and life science startups who need access to basic but essential infrastructure. Our mission is to cultivate an environment that will actively support the diverse Melbourne startup ecosystem. Leading to job and value creation spanning across a range of new and emerging biologically-based industries.

Although biotechnology will be the critical areas of focus, we acknowledge – from a systemic perspective – that life is an integrated network of relationships. As a result, this burgeoning innovation hub will be much more than the sum of its parts. In addition to providing space for applied and translational research, Co-Labs will serve as a particle accelerator for innovative ideas. Through facilitating interdisciplinary cross-pollination, science, technology, philosophy and art will be woven together, forming a rich tapestry of integrated knowledge. 

Science, With A Social Cause

We are a social enterprise that operates with the sole purpose of catalysing curiosity and making science accessible for all. That’s why a proportion of our profits goes to supporting two of our favourite STEM charities in Australia. BioQuisitive and The Phoenix School Program. Both charities aim to promote engagement and accessibility in the sciences across education and public sectors. Moreover, we are committed to decarbonising our economy. Which is why we aim to be carbon neutral within our first year of operation.

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