Guest Post: Australian "Deep" Tech - A Hidden Opportunity

By Petra Andren, CEO of Cicada Innovations*

When the world thinks innovation or startup havens, Australia is not necessarily the first place which springs to mind.

Sure, we have strengths in other industries. Traditional professional services, mining, construction, agriculture, and manufacturing are all areas which have kept our economy afloat during some of the toughest global financial downturns. This has protected us from a great deal of global grief over the past few decades.

But times they are a’changin’, as Bob Dylan once famously said. The world is innovating and marketplaces are interconnecting at an astonishing rate. Digital disruption and the global rise of the startup are driving a worldwide need to improve tech, innovation, and entrepreneurship capabilities – or risk being taken over by foreign entrants.

The biggest global winners will be those who take an international approach, and produce world-changing innovations which affect meaningful change. This is what we’re all about at Cicada Innovations, with our portfolio of 70+ deep technology startups across the gamut of industry verticals.

With Australia only now jumping on the innovation train, it might be tempting to focus on the lower end of town, such as fast-and-easy app development, or transferring pre-existing services into an online space.

But below are three reasons why Australia can, and is, aiming higher.


1)       “Deep” technologies have international scope

“Deep” technologies, as they are being increasingly termed, create unique, hard-to-reproduce innovation based on scientific discovery and meaningful engineering advancements. They are often created in areas of enormous impact, such as medicine, agtech, clean tech, advanced manufacturing, big data or AI, and robotics. And they are the businesses and technologies that will help to create the industries and jobs of our future – on a global stage.

These technologies have the potential to put Australia on the map, and create international funding opportunities for our startup ecosystem. At Cicada Innovations,  we have assisted over 200  startups that have gone on to achieve internationally. 

This is something startups across Australia can be capable of, given the right support in terms of infrastructure, business mentoring, and funding.


2)      Our research institutions are prime for leveraging

Australia produces some of the best research in the world. And yet we somehow still manage to rank last in the OECD for collaboration between researchers and business.

While this might not appear very promising, it actually represents an enormous opportunity. What we have achieved so far has been done without a concerted effort to tie in our world-leading research with our talented entrepreneurs and startups. But there are increasingly programs in place for bridging this gap.

Cicada Innovations is Australia’s only business incubator owned by the four major Australian universities – Australian National University, University of Sydney, University of NSW, and University of Technology Sydney. These unique connections to research, combined with being Australia’s largest cluster of deep technology startups, led us to develop an annual Industry Engagement Program.

This Program is designed to drive the commercialisation of research in Australia by creating pathways for interdisciplinary collaboration between researchers and business. In its inaugural year last year, the Program created 10 ongoing collaborations between industry and research. However, we hope to significantly improve on this number this year.


3)      We present a unique opportunity for investors from around the globe

The fact that Australian startups are not considered a great deal in the global innovation movement actually has its advantages for investors.

Because these startups are often overlooked by international investors simply because of Australia’s relative anonymity in this regard, the volume of unexplored investor opportunities is far higher than it really should be.

In many fields, such as advanced hardware and engineering, demand for local funding levels also far exceeds supply. This means startups are constantly on the lookout for international funding opportunities – as is the case with most of our portfolio companies here at Cicada Innovations.

For this reason, we encourage any interested parties to reach out to us at to hear more about the portfolio of opportunities waiting for you “down under”. We promise you won’t be disappointed!


Petra Andrén is the CEO of Cicada Innovations, Australia’s only “super incubator” founded by our four major universities: University of Sydney, University of Technology Sydney, University of New South Wales and Australian National University.

Cicada Innovations provides long-term business support to Australia’s largest collection of 70+ advanced technology entrepreneurs across the medical, engineering, and IT web sciences. Incubatees at Cicada Innovations produce world-changing, high proprietary innovations that compete on a global stage.

*Cicada Innovations is formerly ATP-I, one of the first international incubators to sign an MOU with the California Technology Council to mutually support entrepreneurs.