Advantage SME sets platform to celebrate future success
Inaugural event brings together business, industry with university staff and students to drive prosperity and opportunity.
More than 300 representatives from local businesses and industry, as well as staff and students from the University of Wollongong (UOW), kicked off the inaugural Advantage SME event, part of a NSW State Government program to drive innovation.
The Boosting Business Innovation Program is a two-year initiative to support greater collaboration between research organisations and local business.
Advantage SME can assist small to medium enterprises grow and thrive in the global economy across industries such as advanced manufacturing, engineering technologies and services, ICT, shared and financial services, health and aged care.
It provides businesses with access to the capabilities and resources on offer at UOW, including its talented students, leading researchers and advanced laboratories, as well as funding and incentives, such as collaboration vouchers that provide dollar-for-dollar funding to subsidise the cost of commercial research.
The inaugural event, held at UOW’s Innovation Campus, heard futurist and KPMG partner Bernard Salt talk about the reasons the local community has to be optimistic about future prosperity.
Mr Salt posed the question: why would you have faith in the region to invest in it? “Australia, and Wollongong, has what the rest of world wants.
We have lifestyle, we have commodities, we have quality of life, we have institutions, we have a sovereign state and secure well-organised society.”
More than 300 people attended the inaugural Advantage SME event where futurist Bernard Salt was guest speaker.
The number of small business in the Illawarra grew by 6 per cent between 2014 and 2016, compared with 5 per cent nationally, which he described as the “the right environment for us to create our own future, our own prosperity”.
Despite the fertile ground, Mr Salt said Australia had a poor track record in turning ideas into enterprises, and programs such as Advantage SME were a critical part of creating and celebrating an entrepreneurial spirit.
“We have had complacent prosperity for 100 years. We handed out franchises 100 years ago in mining, in banking in [telecommunications] and we have not moved on,” he said.
“We like to think of ourselves as agile, entrepreneurial, enterprising … we are not that good at monetising innovation.
"Maybe our innovation isn’t at [the US] level. Maybe our innovation is at a grass-roots level in places like the Illawarra and Wollongong.”
Mr Salt said that between November 2000 and November 2016, the Australian economy added 3.3 million jobs, while losing 267,000 jobs.
“One job is lost, 12 others have been created. Where are these 12 jobs being created? It is healthcare and social assistance.
“One job in four on the Australian continent in the 21st century was created in healthcare.”
UOW Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation) Professor Judy Raper, KMPG futurist Bernard Salt and UOW Senior Manager Commercial Research and Commercialisation Klaus Krauter.
He said universities had a key role to play in tapping that potential, with increasing numbers of what he called “skilled knowledge workers” needed to provide the necessary products and services.
“Identify and celebrate local successes that are making a contribution to the community and send the right messages to the next generation,” he said.
Mentorship, where retirees and older workers provide their expertise to help young people start and grow business, would contribute not only to economic growth, but also help develop resilient, cohesive communities and prevent a “schism opening up between the skilled and the unskilled”.
“I want an Australia where everyone believes they can have a chance at prosperity,” Mr Salt said.
UOW Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation) Professor Judy Raper said Advantage SME was a one-stop shop for businesses wanting to engage with UOW.
“Through this program we can help businesses connect easily with the right research expertise and technology.
"Our research covers everything from materials engineering, medicinal chemistry and 3D biofabrication through to social transformation.
“By boosting connections between the university and the local business community we are going to see more innovation locally,” she said.
For more about the Advantage SME visit: uow.edu.au/advantage-sme