Finalist

Innovation and Collaboration Space of the Year Award

Unleash Space

Finalist of the Innovation and Collaboration Space of the Year Award

"Unleash your potential with the University of Auckland’s Unleash Space"


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Summary

Unleash Space (Kura Matahuna) is a radical concept for the University of Auckland. The first truly inter-disciplinary, creative, practical learning space on campus. Impressive, impactful and highly visible, students from all faculties can come together to this centrally located innovation hub and maker space to be inspired and learn about entrepreneurship. Having an inter-disciplinary team from across the University behind the founding of Unleash Space has helped to ensure that it serves students of all interests and backgrounds.

Unleash Space was created out of the space formerly occupied by the Engineering Library. Its design evolved from inspiration from the very best university makerspaces in Europe and the United States,adapted for local needs and identity. Local culture has been considered with identity signage in Māori language to be inclusive of our indigenous community.

Our strategy to entice this new generation into venture creation has included appealing to students with use of equipment and then showing them the allure of entrepreneurship as they make the journey from playing to inventing to prototyping. Beyond being a place where inventions can be prototyped, the majority of extra-curricular programmes delivered by the Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship have been run at Unleash Space since its opening. Unleash Space has exceeded all expectations in terms of student usage. Since its opening in 2018, thousands of people have attended programmes, equipment training sessions, workshops, events and mentoring sessions. The successful use of recruitment tactics employed, and resulting extraordinary response that Unleash Space has had is evidence of the appetite from this current generation to be equipped to become entrepreneurially-minded revolutionaries.

Key People


Wendy Kerr
Director
Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship,  The University of Auckland



Darsel Keane
Associate Director
Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship,  The University of Auckland



Sean Kelly
Unleash Space Manager
Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship,  The University of Auckland



Himendra Ratnayake
Facilities and Services Manager
Business School,  The University of Auckland



Stuart McCutcheon
Vice-Chancello
The University of Auckland



Further key people

Acknowledgements

Staff at the Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, The University of Auckland’s Innovation Working Group, Property Services, the benefactors who empowered staff to create Unleash Space: Sir Owen G Glenn, Beca, Chau Hoi Shuen Foundation, Hynds Foundation, Li Ka-Shing Foundation, PwC

Images

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern launches Unleash Space

Students in maker space

VentureLab incubator

Get Good Done social entrepreneurship programme

Unleash Space's operation involves student leadership

Unleash Space maker space

Soldering station

Our Get Good Done programme at Unleash Space was based around the UN SDG's

Climathon climate change hackathon

3D Printer - one of many technical tools available in our maker space. Training is delivered by a team of student creative technologists

IMPACT STORY

Impacting lifes

Shwoop is an experiential marketing start-up initiated by Business, Music and Engineering students at the University of Auckland. The students who formed Shwoop first met at Unleash Space as trainee Creative Technologists, employed to train other students to use the equipment in Unleash Space. Through the experience of working together Jamie, Hayden and Adrian connected over their mutual passion for technology and innovation and Shwoop emerged as a company whose big idea is to turn cities into playgrounds. Shwoop have made use of the maker space in Unleash Space for prototyping, made connections with students from diverse disciplines to build their team and frequently turn to staff at Unleash Space for advice and mentorship.

Shwoop’s first project was an interactive display at Auckland Public Library using Microsoft artificial intelligence to recommend books based on a person’s facial expression (mood), the weather and time of day. Since then they have created a treasure hunt app with prizes provided by sponsors, worked on a supermarket recipe recommendation kiosk, an interactive musical staircase and were selected as a finalist in the University’s flagship Velocity $100k challenge in 2018. Hayden says “Unleash Space has been instrumental in our ability to make projects like this. The staff are always interested in what we are doing and happy to help out. I love how much technology we have access to and how we can combine different equipment in a million different ways to make new things.”

LEARNINGS

Lessons learned

Universities are by nature risk-adverse environments. To create a start-up in an institutional environment is challenging and as much an exercise in public relations as it is project management. Our advice is that winning the hearts, minds and imaginations of senior stakeholders and prospective sponsors is essential to be able to open up permissions and opportunities for your I&E space to exist.

A major turning point was the creation of a prototype. The Director of the Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship was inspired by the story of Walt Disney who at the creation of every Disney park would start and complete Sleeping Beauty’s castle first. The castle encapsulated the dream and vision of the parks and once complete would assure all the workers and detractors that it would become real. The Dean of the Business School gave permission for a disused reception area near administrative offices in the Business School to be turned into a small innovation hub to be used by members of the Velocity student entrepreneurship club. The space was transformed through quality furniture, the walls and floors being brought to life with vibrant decals, inspirational quotes writ large on walls and the installation of an enormous digital touch screen. The new space was embraced by students who congregated there en masse. Once people could see such a space in real life and the power it had to bring together students of all disciplines to network and collaborate, it empowered staff to go on to build Unleash Space.

FUTURE PLANS

What's coming?

Staff at the University of Auckland’s Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship are excited for what tomorrow will bring – uncertainty and possibility. With Unleash Space firmly established, staff are now reiterating its operational plan to further its potential as a tool to transform the entrepreneurial mindsets and capability of our students. This includes building on the foundation that has been established through intensive use of the maker space and the quality programmes, workshops and mentoring sessions currently delivered. As a Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, the status quo is never acceptable and change is being both planned and anticipated for in terms of the changing world, the changing nature of tertiary education and the changing needs of our students. This is possible due to the willingness and ability of the Centre’s staff to pivot and change operations based on the Centre’s culture of running as a start-up within a university.

A major next step for Unleash Space is evolving to run programmes within curricular on top of the extra-curricular programmes currently delivered. This is possible due to the establishment of the Hynds Entrepreneurial Fellowship, which has been created with the audacious goal of embedding innovation and entrepreneurship within curricular across all faculties in the University within the next five years.


KEY STATISTICS

900

sqm area for Unleash Space

$NZD 9.6 mil

Sponsorship for Unleash Space

72

Unleash Space NPS score

32%

Entrepreneurial ideas improved by

5,272

Attendances at equipment training sessions.

3,103

Official members

920

Participants attending Create and Make Workshops

6,951

Project-based sign ins

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