XTK: Crowd-funding ideas that don’t make sense

Kristin: If we think that  innovation is critical for driving new economies, then we need to do it better. That’s why we’re launching the XTK Projects on 9th June, so that we can grow resources and collaborative spaces for transformative innovation.

First some background as evidence for need. In 2008, we completed a studied for the South Australian government on R&D capabilities in advanced manufacturing. Building an advanced manufacturing industry is critical to ensure continued economic development in South Australia. It’s importance is illustrated by the appointment of Prof Göran Roos as a current Adelaide Thinker-in-Residence, and at the time we did the study, the closure of Mitsubishi’s automotive factory gave it extra urgency.

The maths of replacing this automotive plant with advanced manufacturing businesses? Most of the advanced manufacturing businesses we looked at were 5-20 people enterprises. So to replace a 2000-people Mitsubishi with 20-person business means establishing 100 new advanced manufacturing businesses. Given that about two-thirds of businesses last more than 5 years, that means we need to start-up about 140 businesses. However, advanced manufacturing relies on emerging technologies arising from research and commercialisation. If we assume a 10% success rate, we’d need to find 1,400 new ideas. Which means we’d need to find 1,400 scientists, tradespeople or engineers with the skills and knowledge to develop their idea AND  sense of entrepreneurship.

1,400 scientists and engineers with aptitudes for entrepreneurship.

For me that seems like an impossible task, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. So XTK aims to do this in a number of ways across sectors include science and technology, but also arts/creative industries and social and community sectors.

  • First we bring together people who are interested in emerging ideas, and seeing those ideas provide a social, environmental and economic benefit to our communities. By contributing funds (and the amount is by donation to accommodate personal circumstances) they demonstrate they are committed to making a difference.
  • Second we ask people to share ideas that don’t quite make sense yet, the ‘slow hunch ideas’ as Steven Johnson put it, so that they can collide with others’ hunches to form bigger ideas, whether that be technology, arts, social innovation or anything else. See Ianto Ware’s talk from TEDxAdelaide to understand how powerful this can be. Or see the Institute of Photonics and Advanced Sensing at the University of Adelaide on how they adopt a trans-disciplinary approach to its research, to “stimulate the creation of new industries”.
  • Thirdly, we allow the process to also be emergent. How we fund, what we fund, what we decide can all be influenced by the group, so there is a sense of co-creating this space for innovation.
  • And finally, it is not investment but “pay-it-forward”. We want the fund projects that make a difference and be financially sustainable. So we expect those projects to then fund other projects. And if projects fail, we want them to fail spectacularly, because it’s failure that helps drive innovation (at least Dyson agrees).

If you are driven by ideas, you should come. Please come and tell others. Our launch is at Tuxedo Cat on Thursday 9th June from 5-8pm. We’re aiming to attract 100 people each bringing around $100 (entry is by donation so it can be varied more or less on personal circumstances). You can register here. And more information on the XTK Projects is available on the website here.

Finally, if you have any questions about how it will work, why we’re doing it, what you might need to do or how to submit a project, please comment below.

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