Federal funding to foster innovation in the Bega Valley

Federal funding to foster innovation in the Bega Valley

UOW-led innovation hub the first of its kind in regional Australia

The Bega Valley community will have access to the tools and support to create a thriving economic future after the Minister for Jobs and Innovation, Senator the Hon Michaelia Cash today (21 June) announced $382,000 in funding for the Bega Valley Innovation Hub (BVIH).

The BVIH is the result of a community effort to address the challenge of creating new jobs and opportunities for people in the region, bringing together the local government, regional businesses, the University of Wollongong Bega and UOW’s start-up accelerator and incubator iAccelerate.

The Hub will be based at the UOW Bega campus where it will provide the space and access to iAccelerate’s education and support programs to help local people grow ideas into viable businesses.

It will enable local people access to the same level of support available in metropolitan regions, including iAccelerate’s $10-million seed fund through venture-capital partners Artesian and other funding networks.

To drive regional innovation, it will host outreach programs, such as high school start-up camps, education events to help local businesses understand how an innovation support system works and training workshops to help business adopt new technologies and other business improvements.

The idea for a regional innovation hub was started through a local innovation taskforce, whose members included local business, Bega Valley Shire Council and UOW Bega.

Together they raised the seed capital needed to submit an application for a share of the funding through the $23 million Incubator Support program, a key initiative of the National Innovation and Science Agenda.

iAccelerate CEO Omar Khalifa said providing local people, particularly youth, with opportunities available elsewhere was a key driver of the Hub.

“The Bega Valley and surrounding region is no stranger to enterprise and with a rich history in agriculture, commercial fishing and of course, the iconic Bega Cheese brand.

“Yet, isolation and a lack of local employment opportunities mean many young people leave the region.

"Until now it has also been difficult to access the guidance, funding and services required to start their own companies.

"Importantly is it home to an engaged group of passionate business owners and a local community that is eager to create their own future.

“We’ll use the well-proven methodology from iAccelerate and tailor it to local needs and conditions, working with the community to foster a spirit of innovation that leads to economic opportunities in the region.”

The BVIH aims to create 16 new businesses and more than 30 new jobs in its first two years of operation.

It will kick-off with a series of events targeted at established business, students and the wider community respectively, introducing them to the concepts of entrepreneurship and how the Hub will support them.

Bega Valley Shire Mayor Kristy McBain congratulated everyone who had worked hard to make the innovation hub a reality.

“What a great addition to our community it promises to be,” she said. “When completed the hub promises to underpin the spirit of challenging the norm and searching for better ways that have always existed in our community.

“You only have to look at the UOW campus, Bega Cheese, the new hospital, or the wider small business community to see that the Valley has never been a place to stand still.

"People are here to have a go and build prosperity for their community.

“Through a collective embracing of technology we will be very well placed to attract investment, with improved economic and social outcomes sure to result.”

Main image: Bega township and the Bega Valley. Photo courtesy Sapphire Coast Tourism.