Global innovators pitch city-shaping ideas

Be inspired by big thinkers from Melbourne and Bandung in Indonesia, who are developing winning ideas to make public spaces more inclusive, and to protect cities from flooding.

We partnered with SPARK Deakin, The Greater Hub at the Institute of Technology Bandung and the Bandung City Government to deliver the recent four-part Melbourne-Bandung Innovation Series to nearly 1000 participants.

Melbourne and Bandung are partner cities and are each home to leading universities and thriving startup and innovation ecosystems, which puts us in a great position to collaborate.

The virtual sessions brought together experts, innovators, entrepreneurs and students to explore shared city challenges, focusing on four themes: inclusive entrepreneurship, sustainability, tourism and public health.

At the end of the series, participants pitched innovative solutions to these challenges that could be applied in both Melbourne and Bandung, to a panel of expert judges.

The award for most innovative solution went to Melbourne-based POPS4Public, an online tool that allows people to discover privately-owned public spaces across the city, many of which are underutilised.

Project lead Mohammad Mohammadi said he studied Melbourne’s public spaces for four years as part of his PhD and hopes POPS4Public will help make cities more accessible and inclusive.

‘As an architect and urban researcher, I identified that young people’s presence is particularly undermined in our cities, which could lead to mental health issues,’ said Mohammad.

‘It might seem strange how an architect can contribute to public health, but this open competition encouraged me to think out-of-the-box and create a link between urban-related solutions and public health.’

By helping people discover new privately-owned public spaces for social activities all over the city, POPS4Public will also help reduce crowding in the wake of COVID-19.

‘Public-private partnerships are very important in creating sustainable and liveable cities,’ Mohammad said.

‘POPS4public finds these urban partnerships as an effective and resilient solution for the sustainable development of Melbourne and other cities in the world.’

The award for the most impactful solution went to PoreBlock, an Indonesian startup that worked with the Bandung Institute of Technology to develop a type of porous concrete that reduces flood risk.

Anisa Azizah from PoreBlock said floods are one of Indonesia’s most devastating disasters, with 100 million people at risk, hundreds of deaths every year, and an annual economic loss of more than AUD$3 billion.

‘Our city, Bandung, is in the highlands, but still every rainy season our streets become rivers. One of the reasons is because the materials used for construction in our city cannot absorb water, unlike natural soil,’ Anisa said.

‘Nature is a good example of flood mitigation. We developed urban areas in a human way, but we have learned our lesson now, with all the man-made disasters. It is time to let nature teach us, with technological advances, of course.’

Anisa said the pitch competition was a great opportunity to connect with like-minded people who have a passion for solving Melbourne and Bandung’s shared city challenges.

‘Having insights from other cities that already have state-of-the-art drainage systems inspires us to do better. Not only for PoreBlock but for overall water management,’ Anisa said.

‘This is a complex issue, and each contribution is important. Everyone must contribute to preventing and mitigating disasters. In particular, the private sector can build innovations to imitate the natural way of managing water.’

The Melbourne-Bandung Innovation Series was funded by a grant received under the Department of Foreign Affairs Australia-Indonesia Institute Special COVID-19 Round.

Other winners included Melbourne-based MUVi, with a virus deactivation technology intended to create coronavirus-safe zones and Bandung-based Culture Academy, an ed-tech platform which gamifies learning to help small businesses in the cultural and arts sector.

A network of startup ecosystem partners in Melbourne and Bandung will continue to help participants access the connections, engagement and support needed to achieve their goals.

For more information about the City of Melbourne’s work in this area, visit Startups and innovation and International connections.

Are you an early-stage startup founder who lives, works or operates within the City of Melbourne? If you are looking to explore the Southeast Asia market, check out our START in Melbourne, SCALE to Southeast Asia program.