ENTREPRENEUR: Mic Black is representing the Sunshine Coast on a trip to the USA to help the Coast's entrepreneurship and technology sector develop faster and better, growing community around it.
ENTREPRENEUR: Mic Black is representing the Sunshine Coast on a trip to the USA to help the Coast's entrepreneurship and technology sector develop faster and better, growing community around it. Patrick Woods

Coast man named in mission to the US

COULD the Sunshine Coast become Queensland's Silicon Valley?

It's a question that's occupied the minds of entrepreneurs and business leaders, particularly those with a technology bent, for years - and now it'll guide Coast technologist, artist and "maker" Mic Black as he flies to the USA this weekend.

Representing the Sunshine Coast, Mr Black will join a troupe of regional Queensland leaders on a mission to build global connections, observe the world's best practice and return with new ideas to help support jobs and grow the Coast's economy.

The week-long trip would take in Colorado's world-renowned startup ecosystems in Denver and Boulder and California's Silicon Valley - one of the world's leading technology innovation hotspots.

"We're not going there for a step-by-step recipe - the Sunshine Coast will find its own path. But, there's plenty to learn from those who have gone before us," Mr Black said.

He wants to learn how the developing startup ecosystems in Denver and Boulder are doing things, and learn how the Silicon Valley maintains momentum, he said.

"I'm hoping to have a better understanding of how they maintain momentum within their startup ecosystem, and I would like to open up the conversation for collaboration across the ocean," he said.

He imagined there would be opportunities for the Coast and these US hotspots of innovation to exchange talent and ideas, interact and work together, he said.

Leading the mission is Startup Catalyst chief executive officer and winner of the 2016 Pearcey National Entrepreneur Award, Aaron Birkby.

"This mission will expose our representatives to the world's best practice in ecosystem developing, allowing them to take away practical learnings about how to drive innovation in their region," Mr Birkby said.

"Queensland and Colorado have a lot in common in the way the state is intervening to encourage entrepreneurship, collaboration and development of an innovation culture - we can learn a lot from the experience there and adapt these learnings to benefit our own regional ecosystems."

Mr Black runs a local startup Mic's Lab, a commercial "maker" lab designing and building custom technology to tackle complex social and economic growth challenges, and inspire creativity.

With many awards for his contributions to hackathons last year, his team Light Trails designed a light installation around Caloundra that allowed users with a mobile phone to "paint the city in colour and light".

Technology associated with wifi mounted in street lights calculated where a person's phone was, assigning them their own colour and projecting that colour as the person walked under each street light.

"That colour followed them along the beach or wherever they're going - you paint pink to all the lights you pass. Someone else might paint them yellow. We also then were able to track and encourage the use of recreational spaces after dark," he sai

Part-funded by Advance Queensland and with prize money from an earlier win, the technology enthusiast will extend his trip by nine days to include a factory in Oakland that's building giant human-driven robots, and other sites.

He'll also visit several brain to computer interface groups including presenting to professors at Berkley University about his view on the role of gamification in mental health with his "competitive mindfulness" game, where the players have to "out-meditate" each other.

Mr Black will track his trip in a video series he's producing with Jarryd Townson, called Beachy and Bushy. To find it on Facebook click here.

Each participant on the tour will receive $6000 in support from the $1.5 million Advancing Regional Innovation Program Network Fund to cover mission costs while they are in the United States.

To find out more about Startup Catalyst click here.