Parliamentary Secretary for the Illawarra and South Coast Gareth Ward MP has today announced the University of Wollongong’s iAccelerate incubator will share in $2.1 million funding to boost jobs, drive collaboration and help regional startup communities thrive.
Mr Ward said that Jobs for NSW would provide $300,000 in funding to iAccelerate as part of a new ‘Local Innovation Network’ program to turbocharge regional innovation.
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 startups 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 startups and SMEs across NSW backed by the best possible support.
“Startups 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 startups 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, Wollongong University and Highlands Entrepreneurs Regional Development, will deliver a range of initiatives to boost the startup 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 startups 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 startups 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.