The University of Wollongong’s business incubator iAccelerate has received $300,000 in State Government funding to join a new Local Innovation Network program to turbocharge regional innovation.
Parliamentary Secretary for the Illawarra and South Coast Gareth Ward MP recently announced the funding, part of $2.1 million funding to boost jobs, drive collaboration and help regional start-up communities thrive.
Mr Ward said that Jobs for NSW would provide the funding and the program was developed in collaboration with key stakeholders in the Illawarra, South Coast and Southern Highlands, and enables the expansion of the iAccelerate program to these regional areas.
“This is a terrific boost for start-ups and SMEs from the Illawarra, South Coast and Southern Highlands that will further unlock our enormous potential,” Mr Ward said.
“The initiative will support regional areas to develop networked communities of start-ups and SMEs across NSW backed by the best possible support.
“Start-ups across the Illawarra, South Coast and Southern Highlands can expect improved access to clients, mentoring and investment both in and outside their regions thanks to new opportunities to connect with other regional entrepreneurs.”
“Wollongong is one of seven locations in the new network which includes Armidale, Wagga Wagga, Bathurst, Coffs Harbour, Byron Bay and Newcastle.
iAccelerate CEO Omar Khalifa said the incubator’s proven program would assist in developing more successful regional start-ups and enabling them to reach markets anywhere in the world.
Mr Ward said a crucial element of the program was to support the Illawarra and South Coast region to identify and address any barriers to local innovation.
“iAccelerate, in collaboration with Bega Shire Council, the University of Wollongong and Highlands Entrepreneurs Regional Development, will deliver a range of initiatives to boost the start-up ecosystem,” he said.
“This will include an upgrade of internet connectivity at a number of facilities to help startups and SMEs access faster speeds to enable them to take part in live events.
“iAccelerate will also launch ‘train the trainer’ events to encourage high quality assistance for entrepreneurs and develop and publish content to help start-ups grow,” Mr Ward said.
The NSW Deputy Premier and Minister for Small Business John Barilaro said NSW’s startup sector now extended statewide with over 10 per cent of start-ups based outside Sydney.
“Jobs for NSW will partner with each regional participant in the Local Innovation Network to offer its suite of financial products – including grants, interest free loans and loan guarantees – to local entrepreneurs,” Mr Barilaro said.