Sheridan Gho (Cenofex Innovations), Tamantha Stutchbury (iAccelerate), Nathan Larkin (Verbotics) standing in the corridor in the iAccelerate building. Photo: Mark Newsham

Illawarra startups soar to new heights

Illawarra startups soar to new heights

UOW iAccelerate entrepreneurs report $75.3M sales revenue, add $22M into Illawarra, south coast economy

The thriving ecosystem at the University of Wollongong’s (UOW) business incubator iAccelerate is going from strength to strength, as highlighted in the iAccelerate 2023 Impact Report released this week.  

iAccelerate is a leading innovation hub empowering startups and innovative businesses in the Illawarra, South Coast and communities across NSW to deliver a big impact throughout Australia and on the global stage. 

During the report period of January through to December 2023, iAccelerate companies reported $75.3 million in sales, building a diversified economy for the future of the Illawarra and other communities in which UOW has campuses. Since its inception in 2016, iAccelerate companies have generated over $416.5 million in total revenue. 

In 2023, iAccelerate companies injected $22.28 million into the economy through salaries and contractor payments, bringing the total to $132.5 million since the program launched. 

In addition, iAccelerate companies were responsible for the creation of 72 local jobs last year, bringing the total number of employees in iAccelerate resident companies to 322, including full-time, part-time and casual workers. 

iAccelerate is an industry agnostic program and in 2023 it supported a total of 69 startups and scaleups across multiple sectors, including: AI, edTech, energy, hardware, health and wellbeing, robotics, social enterprises and tech.  

Since 2016, iAccelerate has supported 385 startups, says iAccelerate Director Dr Tamantha Stutchbury 

“iAccelerate's impact report for 2023 highlights another year of outstanding results where we continued to be a leader in Australia’s innovation ecosystem,” Dr Stutchbury said. 

“The achievements go beyond the figures with 2023 our most diverse year to date. With the Illawarra’s employment landscape rapidly transforming, our programs for First Nations, regional and female entrepreneurs continue to make iAccelerate a place for anyone in the community with a bright idea to come and explore their potential.” Nathan Larkin and Andrew Short co-founders of Verbotics in the workshop at iAccelerate. Photo: Mark Newsham Nathan Larkin and Andrew Short, co-founders of Verbotics, working in the iAccelerate building at Innovation Campus.

Verbotics, founded by UOW robotics researchers Nathan Larkin and Dr Andrew Short, joined iAccelerate in 2017 with the goal to revolutionise the way robots are programmed, to make robotic automation accessible for low-volume production.  

Fast-forward six years and the team have completed two years of R&D, rolled out Verbotics software to clients in Australia, New Zealand, North America and Europe, secured private investment, seed investment and last year were awarded an Accelerating Commercialisation grant of $632,000. 

“Our biggest milestone in 2023 was selling our 50th license. It signified the traction our unique product has in the market. Twelve months later and we are close to doubling that,” Mr Larkin said. 

“Financially the grant is a great help, but one of the understated impacts is the work you do with the grant facilitators during the application process.” 

Verbotics won several industry awards last year, including the Australian Technologies Competition’s Advanced Manufacturing Award and an Endeavour Award for Technology Application, putting the skills fostered at iAccelerate into action.  

“iAccelerate and UOW have been the backbone for our transition from academics to founders. The programs have provided us with so many of the skills we now have to run a business, and to take our idea from a research project to a successful product,” Mr Larkin said. 

iAccelerate continues to buck the industry norm, inspiring female founders to break down barriers, identify as entrepreneurs and invest in themselves. 

Fifty-three per cent of companies had at least one active female founder in 2023, well above the national and international average benchmark of innovation ecosystems. 

Cenofex Innovations co-founders Michael Weaver and Sheridan Gho standing in the corridor in the iAccelerate building. Photo: Mark Newsham

Co-founders Dr Michael Weaver and Dr Sheridan Gho from Cenofex Innovations joined iAccelerate in 2023.

Dr Sheridan Gho is CEO and co-founder of Cenofex Innovations, a Wollongong-based biotechnology company creating medical devices to measure and transform the management of lymphoedema, a condition where a build-up of lymph fluid in parts of the body causes swelling.  

Dr Gho completed iAccelerate’s pre-accelerator Activate program last year and said iAccelerate was vital to helping her and co-founder Dr Michael Weaver solidify their business. 

“We are currently focused on the development of a medical device that will transform the management of lymphoedema,” Dr Gho said.  

“Since joining the program, we have been able to tap into the research excellence at UOW. We have embarked on a pilot research project with the Biomechanics Research Laboratory at UOW to collect our first on-person data this year. 

“It has been fantastic to move into a space that is so supportive of the entrepreneurial journey. Everyone here gets it and they are so willing to provide meaningful connections to help you grow yourself, and your business.”  

Entrepreneurs interested in the program are encouraged to reach out to iAccelerate to discuss the opportunities available.   


iAccelerate is an incubator and accelerator for entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs and scale-ups, within the world-class University of Wollongong. Residents are supported by a robust model of education, mentoring, seed funding and unparalleled access to the University. The applications for iAccelerate Activate Program are ongoing – more information can be found here. 

Main photo: Dr Sheridan Gho, CEO and co-founder Cenofex Innovations, with iAccelerate Director Tamantha Stutchbury and Nathan Larkin, co-founder Verbotics.