Have an idea and want to know where to take it next?

I2N’s Validator is a pre-accelerator program designed to provide a guided experience to quickly and cost-effectively determine pathways to market for an idea, invention, or research project. Over the course of 9 weeks, teams will experience hands-on learning to validate a fit between a significant problem and their idea.

See the progress of the most recent Validator cohort by viewing the recording of their Validator Showcase.

Did you miss the I2N Programs Info Session? Watch the recording.

Important dates

Applications extended

Applications close: 11:59PM Wednesday 23 June 2021

The program commences Thursday 15 July at I2N Hub Honeysuckle. See the full schedule below.

Learn essential skills

Modeled on the highly regarded Lean LaunchPad program developed by Steve Blank at Stanford, Validator will see teams:

  • Develop entrepreneurial capacity and critical enterprise skills
  • Test and collect evidence for multiple business model hypotheses
  • 'Get out of the building' to talk to potential customers and partners and to gain valuable insights
  • Identify and validate a potential pathway to market for your innovation
  • Present your customer discovery findings and key learnings without giving away the 'secret sauce' of your idea
Who should attend
  • Research teams testing market opportunities for recent discoveries and new inventions
  • Pre-startup teams keen to develop lean startup principles
  • Corporate teams experimenting with new products and services
  • Mixed industry-research teams priming themselves for ongoing collaboration
What you will experience

A total of 6 online workshops over 9 weeks will see your team test assumptions about an idea or innovation by acquiring insights from real customers. You will participate in peer learning through team presentations and be provided with feedback under the guidance of expert facilitators and mentors at I2N Hub Honeysuckle. You will be expected to undertake a significant number of customer conversations and be supported by fortnightly team coaching sessions with program facilitators and weekly mentoring sessions with industry and domain experts.

Your team will gain strategies and access to tools for validating a sustainable business model by:

  • Leveraging the experience and skills of yourself and those around you
  • Applying tools derived from lean startup, innovation, and design thinking
  • Learn effective customer discovery skills to achieve empathy with end-users/beneficiaries and gain valuable insights
  • Validate a fit between your idea or technology and a real-world problem
  • Effectively communicate the problem you are solving and the real-world impact of your innovation
Program schedule
Session Date & Time Activities
Week 1

Thu 15 Jul, 9AM-1PM >
Fri 16 Jul, 9AM-1PM >

Throughout the week >

Online workshop 1 (4 hrs)
Online workshop 2 (4 hrs)

Coaching session and customer discovery (1 hr)
Customer discovery (min 10 hrs)
Mentor session (1.5 hr)

Week 2Week commencing 19 Jul >
Customer discovery (min 10 hrs)
Mentoring session (1.5 hr)
Week 3Thu 29 Jul, 9AM-1PM >

Throughout the week >

Online workshop 3 (4 hrs)

Coaching session and customer discovery (1 hr)
Customer discovery (min 10 hrs)
Mentoring session (1.5 hr)

Week 4Week commencing 2 Aug >
Customer discovery (min 10 hrs)
Mentoring session (1.5 hr)
Week 5Thu 12 Aug, 9AM-1PM >

Throughout the week >

Online workshop 4 (4 hrs)

Coaching session and customer discovery (1 hr)
Customer discovery (min 10 hrs)
Mentoring session (1.5 hr)

Week 6Week commencing 16 Aug >
Customer discovery (min 10 hrs)
Mentoring session (1.5 hr)
Week 7Thu 26 Aug, 9AM-1PM >

Throughout the week >

Online workshop 5 (4 hrs)

Coaching session and customer discovery (1 hr)
Customer discovery (min 10 hrs)
Mentoring session (1.5 hr)

Week 8Week commencing 30 Aug >
Customer discovery (min 10 hrs)
Mentoring session (1.5 hr)
Week 9Thu 9 Sep, 9AM-1PM >

Throughout the week >

Online workshop 6 and Showcase (4 hours)

Coaching session (1 hr)
Mentoring session (1.5 hr)


Emily Chang has led the design and execution of pre-accelerator and acceleration programs in Australia, including CSIRO ON. She is an organisational and capability development professional with experience working across private industry, government, and the research sector. Her core strengths are facilitation, experimental learning program design and management, leadership development, and change management.

Jonathan Lacey has a background as a researcher in photonics at the University of Melbourne. After 10 years in Silicon Valley working with a Fortune 500 company and a number of startups, Jonathan led a Monash University spin-out as CEO. An experienced business leader and researcher, Jonathan understands the value of commercialisation having worked most recently at CSIRO in business development and as a CSIRO ON facilitator.


Teams that include at least one University of Newcastle staff member, student or alumni receive complimentary access to the program.

Teams with no affiliation with the University: $9,900 per team, payable prior to commencement of the workshop.


Where will Validator take place? The program will take place at I2N Hub Honeysuckle, Q Building, 16 Honeysuckle Dr, Newcastle.

Do I need to have completed Navigator before I can apply for Validator? While previous participation in Navigator is favourable, it is not a pre-requisite for making an expression of interest to Validator.

How many people can I have on my team? Teams must consist of between 2 and 5 members. Consideration will be given for teams of more than 5 members only in exceptional circumstances and on a case by case basis.

What if it's just me? How do I find team members? Networking at meet-ups and events is a great way to get to know like-minded people who are curious about the same problems you are. This has been difficult during COVID-19, so consider who in your immediate circle of influence would jump at the opportunity to work on a problem and learn something new. Maybe it's a work colleague, fellow student, a meet-up, club or society friend, a neighbour, mate, or family member. Socialise the problem you are working with people you meet - you never know who else around you is as keen as you are on developing solutions to real-world problems.

What's are important factors to consider in forming a team? Developing an idea into real-world impact is a team sport and requires more than one person to 'play the game'. There are several aspects of team formation you should consider. Firstly, bring in people who are as curious, compelled, and excited as you are about solving the problem you've identified. Secondly, invite people who can provide industry insights, technical skills, or experience that complement gaps you may have. For example, do you have extensive experience in the problem area but not the skills to build a product solution? Perhaps you are shy and need help building your confidence to have conversations with people. Lastly, and most critically, ensure there is a commitment of all team members that they will participate fully and equally in the program. Customer discovery (conversations) must be shared among the team.

Does everyone from my team need to be affiliated with the University of Newcastle? In short, no. The benefit of having at least one person on the team who is affiliated with the University (current student, staff members, or alumni) is that your team will not incur a program fee. If there is no one on the team who is affiliated with the University the team will incur a program fee of $9,900.

What is the attendance requirement of the program? Attendance by all team members at workshops, coaching sessions, and mentoring sessions is mandatory. Exceptions will be considered only in exceptional circumstances and on a case-by-case basis. Each team member should consider carefully their capacity to commit to the program before making an expression of interest. Participants who attend all workshops, coaching sessions, mentoring sessions, and demonstrate a minimum commitment to genuine customer discovery will receive a certificate of achievement.

What are you looking for in an application? Applications are reviewed before offers are made to teams who address essential criteria. That is, the problem you are trying to solve, the potential solution you have in mind, and who the end-users/beneficiaries you have identified. Your application doesn't have to be 'right', it just needs to demonstrate that you have thought about the problem you are trying to develop a solution for, the insight, invention, or idea you are taking advantage of, and have provided your best possible 'guess' about what that might be and who would most benefit. We also consider what has motivated the team to apply and what you hope to achieve in addition to team member profiles and their potential contribution to the team.

Intellectual Property (IP)

The University of Newcastle makes no claim over the intellectual property (IP) generated by participants as part of the Validator program (subject to the University’s IP Policy and Procedure) provided your use of the IP acknowledges that the IP was developed as part of the Validator program (unless it is unreasonable to do so).

If a team member is an employee or student of the University of Newcastle, they agree and acknowledge that ownership of the IP will be in accordance with the University IP Policy and Procedure, as amended from time to time. IP Policy found here. IP Procedure found here.

Teams may request the assistance of the University of Newcastle to commercialise the IP noting that the University is entitled to recover the costs of any assistance.

Why I2N?

The University of Newcastle's I2N works with individuals and organisations from across the Hunter region and beyond to turn ideas and challenges into opportunities. As a leading driver of economic and business growth, the I2N cultivates entrepreneurial mindsets behind many of the region's most innovative businesses and leaders.

Our programs are more than theory. They are about action and equipping you with practical tools and strategies necessary to have an immediate impact on your innovation journey.

Make an application Validator

To ensure a seamless process, please have your Team Lead prepare in advance the following information before making the application:

The idea

  1. Outline of the problem you believe you have a solution for (up to 250 words)
  2. Outline of the end-users/customers you believe to have this problem (up to 250 words)
  3. Outline of the solution you believe addresses this problem (up to 250 words)
  4. A 100-word summary of your idea/invention
  5. Current intellectual property (IP) status and plans for protection, if required

The team

  1. Individual team member details including
    1. Name
    2. Email
    3. Contact number
    4. Gender
    5. Primary place of residence
    6. Affiliation to the University of Newcastle
    7. Current employer
    8. Contribution to the team
  2. Skills or expertise your team may be missing
  3. What your team expects to achieve by participating in Validator

Other information that will be requested, but does not impact the assessment of the application includes:

  1. Team members who identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander
  2. Team members who identify as first-generation migrants or refugees
  3. What motivated the team to make an application
  4. The estimated Technology Readiness Level of the idea/invention
  5. The UN Sustainable Development Goals the idea/research addresses

In the days immediately after the application close date, your team will be required to join a 30-minute interview (via Zoom) with the selection panel as part of the assessment process.

The University of Newcastle acknowledges the traditional custodians of the lands within our footprint areas: Awabakal, Darkinjung, Biripai, Worimi, Wonnarua, and Eora Nations. We also pay respect to the wisdom of our Elders past and present.