Chris Vein, chairman of the recently-launched Knowledge Economy Institute, in an interview with IoTAustralia, has provided more details of the institute, which is backed by data analytics provider Sirca, Bosch, Cisco, Rozetta Technology (wholly-owned by Sirca), Curtin University and the University of Tasmania.
“In some senses it is a think tank on the traditional model, in other senses it is what we would call in the US a social corporation,” Vein said. “It is not intended to make money in the commercial sense but to make enough money to support the cause and position the thinking and the development of the cause to the next level.”
At present KEI is 100 percent owned by Sirca and Sirca’s wholly owned subsidiary is one of the partners. Vein said that KEI would initially rely heavily on Sirca and Rozetta’s technology and expertise, but would also have its own dedicated staff.
More partners sought
He added that KEI was looking for additional partners. “We are talking to additional partners, on how the products that each provides mesh with each other and with the concept behind KEI. What is the future of all these pieces, where do they fit in?”
He added: “I think people will be interested in KEI and will want to be a part of it because at present there is a lot of talk, but not a lot of action.” He said it was too early to say whether future partners would take equity in the organisation, but said it was “certainly possible”.
He added: “There are many opportunities. We are doing the financial projections and the what-ifs, but we are a startup and we need to stand up and walk. We are just looking at a small team at first and getting the products up to speed and then looking at how we can expand appropriately.”
“The idea of a social enterprise is very new in Australia, so even if we were to get some more equity partners it means something different because we are not trying to make a million dollars, just to make enough to cover costs and invest back into the community. It depends how successful we are and the trajectory of our development.”
(Despite Vein’s comment that social enterprise is a relatively new concept in Australia there appears to be a vibrant social enterprise community. There is a School for Social Entrepreneurs, Social Enterprise Awards, Social Enterprises Sydney and The Social Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Enterprise Alliance.)
Founded on Sirca and Sense-T
Vein said he was confident that KEI would succeed “because of our partners and because of what Sirca and Rozetta have accomplished and because of Mike Briers [CEO of both Sirca and KEI] who has done five startups.”
Sirca was founded in 1997 and is owned by Australia’s 40 universities. It is a not-for-profit company whose mission is to develop and provide relevant global data and advanced tools to promote and enable financial research and innovation, particularly by member universities.” Its wholly-owned subsidiary, Rozetta Technology, is however a fully commercial enterprise that claims to be “recognised as a world leader in extracting meaning and value from big data to get highly applicable results.”
Rozetta ingests transaction data from all the world’s stock exchanges in real time, and analyses these data to look for patterns, such as those that would indicate insider trading.
Vein said that KEI was the brainchild of Sirca CEO]Mike Briers and Sirca chief strategy advisor] Ros Harvey and came out a project called Sense-T. “I am on the advisory board of Sense-T and that is how I came into the picture,” he said.
“Because of the experience and the interaction Mike has running Sirca with the universities and institutions he has an incredible knowledge of how the system works, what the are working on, what they could be working on. Ros has an international development background and has really pitched the Sense-T concept to the universities.”
Sense-T is a project that is using Tasmania as “a living laboratory, where shared data drives new approaches to social, environmental and economic sustainability.” It aims to “build an economy-wide sensor network and data resource, creating a digital view of Tasmania and giving business, governments and communities the tools to make better decisions and solve practical problems.”
IoT a major focus for KEI
Vein said that The Internet of Things would form a large part of KEI’s activities, and he hinted that Intel and Salesforce could join the founding commercial partners, Cisco and Bosch, saying: “We have companies like Cisco and Bosch and, I would argue, Intel and Salesforce who understand how IoT will be central to where we are going.”
He said that the existing partners were willing to invest in KEI because they saw that it gave them an opportunity to refine and scale their ideas around IoT and analytics. However there has been no indication to date that either Bosch or Cisco will take equity in the organisation. Sirca is one focus of Cisco’s recently announced $US15m Australian Internet Innovation Centre, but Vein said it was to early to say anything about links between that initiative and Cisco’s involvement in KEI.