The future of work in the Hunter Valley Creating more opportunities for the next generation
All the while the headlines were focused on Sydney, the Hunter Valley has been quietly building its innovation chops, with businesses, government, educational institutions, and community leaders stepping up and working together to create an ecosystem for the future.
Announced last September was the Hunter Innovation Project, which will include an innovation hub in Newcastle’s CBD that will look to facilitate collaboration between researchers, students, developers, investors, startups and small to medium sized enterprises.
A digital precinct will also be established, a designated zone that will help Newcastle’s infrastructure to work more efficiently. An estimated 250 properties will gain access to high-speed, fibre-based broadband and the city centre will also gain free wi-fi services, while smart cities infrastructure will also be built.
This will involve free wifi-linked sensors and integrated smart tech solutions throughout Newcastle’s city centre. The infrastructure will also provide a new source of open, big data to be made available to startups and entrepreneurs to test and publicly develop innovation products.
To build the region’s tech skills is the University of Newcastle (UoN), which has implemented a range of programs.
Among these is the launch of the Icon Accelerator Program, created in partnership with Slingshot Accelerator to support startups within the Hunter region with mentorship and funding.
Slingshot and UoN will also be running a pre-accelerator program, a free initiative designed to support early stage startups and small businesses in the Hunter region, teaching them about capital raising, marketing, business modelling and presenting.
The partnership between the organisations was established last year, with the organisations collaborating to establish STAR4000, an entrepreneur-focused course at the university designed to equip students with the skills to launch their own venture.
While the future is bright for those thinking of launching a new venture, there are a number of startups already kicking goals across the Hunter in diverse sectors.
Newcastle education startup Futura Group, for example, won the Educational Solution of the Year award in 2015, works with clients including the Queensland Government and TAFE Queensland and NSW to deliver online learning solutions and courses.
Through this work, they noticed a need for simplicity and built eCoach, a cloud platform which helps teachers build interactive courses online and then share them with students to help them go over work at home.
Working in the tourism sector, meanwhile, is Camplify, a sharing economy startup that looks to help caravan owners make some extra cash out of the days their caravans would otherwise be parked idly in their driveway. Born in the Hunter, Camplify earlier this year kicked off its global expansion with a launch in the United Kingdom.