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Monday, 6 Feb 2017

Seed fund raising the bar of success for regional innovation

The University of Wollongong (UOW) has announced the raising of $10 million in investment capital to support entrepreneurs grow their ideas into viable businesses.

The new seed fund will be delivered through iAccelerate, UOW’s business incubator and accelerator that was created to support entrepreneurs develop successful businesses by bringing new products, solutions and services to market.

Access to early-stage funding will allow entrepreneurs to better prepare their businesses and potentially to connect with further funding opportunities.

Investors with a commitment to the start-up sector have contributed to the overall $10 million iAccelerate Seed fund.

In return for their contributions, the fund will provide investors with access to a pipeline of early-stage business investment opportunities.

iAccelerate CEO Omar Khalifa said funding was an essential part of encouraging entrepreneurs to pursue their ideas.

“Without access to early-stage funding, many people are reluctant to identify as entrepreneurs because they feel they don’t have the financial means or it’s too great a personal risk,” Mr Khalifa said.

“Knowing this funding is available, along with the suite of support and mentoring programs we have at iAccelerate, will be the catalyst to grow a unique innovation ecosystem across the Illawarra.

“For existing start-ups, the funding will allow them to continue their growth trajectory to a point where they are at a size and scale that makes them attractive to institutional investors.

“While Australia consistently strikes above its size in terms of research and innovative ideas, we are decidedly lagging in our ability to take full advantage of these and progress them through to the creation of companies. We are contributing to correcting that.”

UOW is partnering with Artesian Venture Partners to manage the fund. Artesian Managing Partner Jeremy Colless said: “We know that the younger an enterprise is, the more support it requires and early stage funding can often be challenging for start-ups to secure.

“This iAccelerate seed fund will give start-ups a great financial leg-up, while the iAccelerate programs support them through education, coaching and mentoring.

“We believe this multi-faceted support will attract some great entrepreneurs and investors to the Illawarra.”

The seed fund raising follows the opening in July 2016 of the iAccelerate Centre at UOW’s Innovation Campus by the then NSW Minister for Industry, Resources and Energy, the Hon Anthony Roberts MP to house the growing number of entrepreneurs involved in the program.

The new three-storey, 4,000-square metre centre was constructed with funding secured from the NSW Government’s Restart Illawarra Infrastructure Fund, via the leasing of Port Kembla. The $16.5 million centre has the capacity to house more than 280 entrepreneurs and is a great example of how making the right investment can continue to have a multiplier effect.

Since its inception in 2012, the iAccelerate program has supported 65 start-up companies, creating more than 200 new jobs.

UOW Vice-Chancellor Professor Paul Wellings CBE said the iAccelerate seed fund was a key part of the University’s goal to deliver economic diversity and sustainability in the Illawarra working in partnership with business and government as it transitions from mining and heavy manufacturing to a knowledge-based economy.

“Entrepreneurs choosing to come to Wollongong have the benefits of partnering with a world-class, research-intensive university and the opportunity to recruit high-quality graduates from UOW. Now they also have access to critical early-stage funding,” Professor Wellings said.

“UOW prepares large numbers of highly proficient graduates each year and is in a unique position to attract the best start-ups to the region to employ that talent, as well as retaining talented people who will be able to determine their own economic future.

“The iAccelerate Centre with its programs, funding support and university links will have significant, long-lasting positive outcomes for the Illawarra and also New South Wales as innovative ideas reach the market sooner.”

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