Entrepreneurial spirit driving innovation on Gold Coast

Ariana Margetts is relieved to have people working in the Cohort Innovation Space again after working from home – photo by Nance Haxton

As General Manager of CoSpaces, Griffith Public Relations and Journalism graduate Ariana Margetts is at the helm of Cohort, an innovation space in the Gold Coast’s five billion dollar Health and Knowledge Precinct.

The precinct is nestled next to Griffith University’s Gold Coast campus, in the heart of the hub that once housed the Commonwealth Games.

Ariana works closely with the State Government and the Southport Chamber of Commerce, where she sits on the executive board, to attract big clients to the precinct, and also liaise with smaller entrepreneurs who need shared spaces to make their ideas become reality.

She says Cohort has grown quickly since transforming the old Commonwealth Games site, and also pivoted online as Covid-19 spread.

“Cohort is three buildings. It takes up the whole block. It’s about two and a half thousand square meters, so quite a large innovation space, “Ariana says.

“Previously they were used for the Commonwealth Games, so they were repurposed by the Queensland State Government. It’s about a $3.2 million investment over five years for the running costs.”

Ryoma Ohira, Cailen Robertson, Dr Sebastian Binnewies, Carl Albrecht and Jake Hashim-Jones promote the App Factory at Cohort

Griffith’s App Factory at Cohort is a student group working on and designing new apps for industry and the university, while the Griffith Innovation Centre is the academic incubator, hosting different professional development events.

Cohort is a cross-disciplinary space, so anyone from the university working on something innovative can use it.

“It’s a really good opportunity if you’re a new researcher or you’re working on a smaller project and you need these really fantastic facilities, but not on a long-term basis,” Ariana says.

“The addition of our scientific labs is the first of its kind in Australia.

“That’s what the Cohort really is all about, providing those sort of facilities that really would be beyond the scope of most innovators or the entrepreneurs right at the beginning of their journey.

“It’s a really flexible model, and it’s quite a cheap model as well. Gone are the days where you have to start up with $20,000 to get your own office, your own photocopier lease, all of that, setting up your internet. You pretty much just bump in your laptop, and you’re good to go.”

Ariana Margetts

Ariana has found promoting Cohort to be an exciting avenue for her Griffith marketing skills.

“It’s a good use of all of that experience really, to come to this and really see how an innovative approach can be used even from that marketing perspective,” she says.

“A lot of what I do here is marketing strategy and PR and storytelling about the Precinct, and really elevating this space, especially because it’s brand new.

“So, getting the stories out there, really sharing what our tenants are doing because they’re the ones doing the cool stuff. We’re just the vessel for it.

“They’re the ones who are doing really great things, really great partnerships, and building new technologies and platforms. We just help them get the word out.”

The Centre for Health Innovation is also one of the Cohort tenants, as part of the Gold Coast Hospital’s innovation strategy.

“They shifted over about 40 of their digital engagement team to work over in this space. That’s quite rare for a hospital to do,” Ariana says.

“They work with clinicians. So most of the ideas that they’re working on they’re trying to solve complex issues within the hospital, with hopefully digital solutions. They work with lots of different stakeholders in there as well as industry collaborations.”

She says it’s a relief seeing people back at their desks at Cohort, after the upheaval that Covid-19 wrought this year.

“We’ve got a COVID safe plan in place, and the hospital is starting to return most of their staff, I think, on a rotation basis,” she says.

The multipurpose event space in Cohort has transformed for now, from hosting 150 people to hosting webinars and live streams.

Also key to spreading word about the Cohort Innovation Space has been Ariana’s role as one of the youngest people in the hundred year history of the Southport Chamber of Commerce to sit on the executive board.

“It was just an opportunity for millennials really to just step up and start having a bit of a voice in our community, and supporting some of the older generation,” she says.

“It’s been brilliant. The people who are on there are really incredible people. But just it’s such a cross-generational board, and that’s really been a lesson for me.”

Listen to more of Ariana’s story on the Griffith University podcast Remarkable Tales:

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