Defining disruption at SouthStart innovation festival

14 March, 2023

Disruption. Is it a buzzword, or one that holds more weight? What happens to an industry or company when incumbents fail to innovate?  

It’s a topic RAA dived deep into conversation on this week, with an esteemed list of keynote speakers from Google, Youtube and the fintech sector at this year’s SouthStart Odyssey festival.  

The four-day festival brings together corporates, start-ups, scale-ups, investors and entrepreneurs from across the country to share ideas, inspiration and make meaningful connections with other innovators.  

Members of RAA’s Innovation team at SouthStart Odyssey innovation festival

It’s a sector that RAA has been involved in for close to 120 years. 

“Innovation is part of our DNA,” says RAA CEO Nick Reade. 

It’s well known that RAA is the largest member organisation in South Australia, but what is probably less known or thought about is how RAA started.  

In 1903, when a group of 15 innovators gathered in a club room on Waymouth Street and formed the Automobile and Motor Cycling Club of South Australia, cars were a disruptive technology. 

The owner’s manuals that arrived with foreign-built vehicles were sketchy at best, so it was up to like-minded ‘automobilists’ to help each other sort out the many mechanical problems that plagued early motoring. 

These early founders (and mechanics) were the forerunners of the RAA Patrols we see around SA today. 

Moving forward

Fast track 120 years, and we’re leading the way again, having successfully launched a Fuel Watch feature within the myRAA app, and a multi-mode transport planning app, RAA Go.  

This month, RAA launched the first twelve electric vehicle charging locations in the rollout of South Australia’s first border-to-border electric vehicle charging network. 

With 140 charging locations planned across the state, the network seeks to addresses the issue of “range anxiety” for electric vehicle drivers today, in the same way early motorists were concerned about access to fuel in the beginning of last century. 

“When we look at long lasting centennial companies, they are often established out of disruptive innovation,” says Ben Owen, RAA’s Chief Strategy Officer speaking at the SouthStart Corporate Innovation Summit.  

“But it’s through their stable core that they become experts at driving sustained innovation.  

“Because of our strong motoring heritage, people still associate RAA with automotive services.

“But today we have a membership base of close to 800,000 people and we provide products and services across Motor, Home, and Travel.  

“For 120 years we have helped our members get on the road, stay on the road, and navigate their journeys, and now through the electrification of transport we are starting to see the convergence of the Motor into the Home.  

“We have an innovation team filled with award winning talent, and where we don’t have capacity to disrupt, we partner with others to deliver a disruptive edge,” he says. 

RAA’s acquisition of two solar partners in 2022, has boosted its capability and capacity to offer customers solar and battery systems, while its in-house innovation team is exploring Smart Home technologies that could see our homes become more energy efficient in the future. 

It’s home EV charging team is already guiding early adopters on the purchase and installation of home chargers, as EV drivers look for an end-to-end solution. 

A conversation about EV charging often leads to another about installing solar and a home battery.  

“We know that corporations are looking at how they add value for their members and employees – take that to the extent where you could be charging your car through solar during the day, and then powering your home at night through bi-directional charging.  

“And as this trend continues evolve and grow, RAA will continue to innovate in the areas that matter to our members for the next 100 years and beyond,” says Owen.