Mapping the Australian Innovation Ecosystem

NOTE: We have stopped taking new submissions to the Ecosystem Map.

In 2021 the NSIN ran a project to create a geographic map of the Australian Innovation Ecosystem, visualising the location of all the startups, tech and innovation companies, hubs and spaces, incubators and accelerators, education and research organisations, funding sources, and professional services for startups.

We stopped, for various reasons, and we are sharing what we learned about mapping the Australian startup ecosystem.

Why we stopped

1. Other solutions are developing. We always believed it wasn’t our responsibility to map the ecosystem, but that if it wasn’t being done by someone else we should step up and fill the gap. Based on conversations in the second half of 2021, things are starting to happen. Government departments are scoping a national startup data initiative and we are hopeful that the quality of data and reports on the Australian startup ecosystem will soon be available.

2. We want to support, not compete. Other platforms are collecting data and have the means to create a visual map, if they choose. We don’t want to compete for funding (scarce enough in Australia already) with other organisations, especially Australian organisations — we’d rather support and amplify what they’re doing. 

3. The value proposition was difficult to communicate and traction was slow. Few organisations added themselves to the map, and we ended up ‘harvesting’ more data from existing online sources than we had expected. This meant that keeping the data accurate and up to date was going to be unmanageable for a small-but-ambitious not-for-profit like NSIN. We heard feedback on this from other platform creators, too — the map itself has limited value, and the insights and underlying data are what users really want.

What we learned

We wrote about what we learned from this ecosystem mapping project on our blog.


Related links and thanks

Some other ecosystem maps we were inspired by

Tools and tech stack

Here’s how we built our Ecosystem Map.

  • We used MapMe to put our data on a visual, geographic map
  • We used Airtable as our backend database, with a miniExtensions plug-in to allow users to submit and edit their own data/responses, and Zapier for some automations like converting markdown to HTML
  • (We initially used Google Sheets but wanted to add automations and self-edit capability, so shifted to Airtable)
  • As well as user-submitted data, we collected publicly-available data using tools such as Airtable’s Web Clipper to easily copy text and images from homepages, Phantombuster to extract Linkedin company pages

If we had our time again we’d look for ways to reduce duplication, either by integrating the database and mapping in one platform, or setting up APIs. But really, the bulk of the manual work was gathering, cleaning and categorising the data. 

Why were we mapping the Australian innovation ecosystem?

The purpose of this ecosystem mapping project is to gain an in-depth understanding of the Australian innovation ecosystem and its infrastructure within the broader economic sector.

It is important to capture this information because it is a complex process to take an idea from seed to commercialisation. This process is also typically beyond the scope and resources of a single organisation. Inevitably, start-ups and entrepreneurs need help to allow them to create the kind of complex value proposition that can only materialise when individual specialist firms combine their skills and expertise. This natural interdependency of an ecosystem can be a liability because it can delay the evolution of a product or a service. Alternatively, innovators can view their ecosystem as an advantageous network of skills and expertise available to be leveraged offering synergies upon which they can capitalise.

This innovation mapping project by the NSIN will seek to answer a number of key questions:

  1. Who are the key actors in the Australian innovation ecosystem?
  2. What principal roles do these actors play in the Australian innovation ecosystem ?
  3. How are the different actors related to one another in terms of functionality?
  4. What are the barriers to the Australian innovation ecosystem’s functioning?
  5. What are the drivers of innovation within Australia’s innovation ecosystem?

The aim of these insights is to:

  1. Help new innovators to establish and grow their businesses.
  2. Allow entrepreneurs and start-ups to easily and quickly identify organisations that support early-stage entrepreneurs with high growth potential. This could include anything from specialist technology patent lawyers to a software engineer you need to take your product to the next stage of development.
  3. To provide insights and evidence for governments at the local, state and national level of the vital contribution of technology, innovation and high growth enterprises to the Australian economy.
  4. To identify key barriers to innovation. These insights can be used by governments, educational institutions and policy makers generally, to determine how best to address these barriers. These barriers could be anything from a shortage in local qualified computer engineers to inadequate local co-working spaces or maker spaces to facilitate connections between actors in the innovation ecosystem.
  5. Identify the primary industries in each area to highlight opportunities to grow or diversify industry focus.
  6. Find ways to assist or strengthen existing businesses by encouraging new synergistic businesses to co-locate.
  7. Attract investment in the Australian innovation ecosystem

Map categories and sub-categories

Category Sub Categories
Startup or entrepreneur
  • Advertising + Marketing
  • Agriculture
  • Artificial Intelligence + Machine Learning (AI/ML)
  • Arts + Entertainment
  • B2B
  • B2C
  • Beauty
  • Blockchain + Cryptocurrency
  • Cannabis
  • Circular Economy
  • Cleantech + Climate + Energy + Sustainability
  • Cloud + DevOps
  • Communications
  • Community + Social + Networking
  • Construction
  • Cybersecurity
  • Data + Privacy
  • Design + Fashion
  • Ecommerce
  • Education + Edtech 
  • Extended Reality (XR AR VR MR etc)
  • Finance + Insurance
  • Food + Hospitality + Events
  • Games + eSports
  • Health + Medical
  • Human Resources
  • Infrastructure
  • Internet of Things (IoT) + Wearables
  • Legal
  • Manufacturing
  • Marketplace
  • Mental Health + Wellness
  • Mobility
  • Nanotechnology
  • Real estate + Real property
  • Robotics + Drones + Autonomous vehicles
  • SexTech
  • Sharing economy
  • Social impact
  • Software as a Service (SaaS)
  • Space + Aero
  • Sports + Fitness
  • Supply chain
  • Work + Productivity
  • Other (startup or entrepreneur)
Tech or Innovation company / organisation / department
  • Technology organisation
  • Innovation organisation
  • Innovation team or department
  • Other (organisation or dept)
Education provider
  • School
  • University
  • TAFE
  • Other (education provider)
Research or policy organisation
  • Government Research 
  • University Research Center 
  • Private Research 
  • Policy / Think Tank
  • Other (research or policy organisation)
Physical Space
  • Coworking
  • Hangout
  • Event Space
  • Maker Space
  • Other (physical space)
Startup Program
  • Incubator
  • Accelerator
  • Pre-accelerator + Entrepreneur training
  • Other (startup program)
Funding source
  • Angel investor
  • Venture Capital
  • Research funding
  • Government funding
  • Philanthropy
  • Other (funding)
Professional Service for startups
  • Legal
  • Finance + Tax + Accounting
  • Strategy + Consulting
  • Marketing + Sales
  • Grants + Incentives
  • Software development
  • Other (professional service)
Other organisations
  • Innovation Hub
  • Network + Community
  • Sector Representative
  • Government body
  • News + Media + Publication
  • Other (organisation type)