Following the opening of the Upstairs Startup Hub in Bathurst, the Bega Valley Shire is the latest regional centre to announce it’s getting an innovation hub.
The region has received $382,000 in funding from the Federal Government’s Incubator Support Program to develop the hub, which will be based out of the University of Wollongong’s (UOW) Bega campus. It will provide support to the university’s accelerator program, iAccelerate, and space for the community.
The development of the hub has been a community effort: a local ‘innovation taskforce’, comprising local businesses, the Bega Valley Shire Council, and UOW Bega, came together to raise the capital necessary to help submit an application for government funding.
Kristy McBain, mayor of Bega Valley Shire, said the hub will make a great addition to the community.
“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,” she said.
“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.”
The hub will look to create 16 new businesses in its first two years of operation and help established businesses in the community better understand and leverage new technologies to further grow.
Omar Khalifa, CEO of iAccelerate, said the hub will play a key role in providing locals, particularly the community’s youth, with opportunities to keep them in the area.
“The Bega Valley and surrounding region is no stranger to enterprise…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,” he said.
“Importantly is it home to an engaged group of passionate business owners and a local community that is eager to create their own future.”
Despite the lack of resources, the local community has been working hard over the last few years to develop its tech and startup ecosystem.
The Bega Valley Shire has run a number of Regional Innovation Week events, for example, coordinated by the IT Sapphire Coast online community to highlight the possibilities of the region.
Among other initiatives, the week has in the past featured an ‘Innovation Riders’ bus, departing from Sydney and travelling to Bega via Wollongong.