Boost for region with funding for landmark iAccelerate project
The NSW Government today announced $16.5 million in funding for a landmark University of Wollongong (UOW) project that promises to represent the new ‘international’ face and focus for the Illawarra region.
The funding will provide the kickstart needed for the iAccelerate Centre – a three-storey, 4000 square metre building to be constructed on UOW’s Innovation Campus.
Minister for the Illawarra John Ajaka announced the funding as part of the Restart Illawarra Infrastructure Fund, which will see $100 million in Government funding distributed to 12 projects in the region.
Making the announcement at the Innovation Campus with parliamentary colleagues Member for Kiama Gareth Ward and Member for Heathcote Lee Evans, the Minister said the iAccelerate Centre would create 500 direct jobs.
“The centre will establish technology business acceleration programs, provide space for more startup companies, and potentially create another 1000 jobs in the wider economy.”
Mr Ajaka said the iAccelerate project was virtually “shovel-ready” and he expected the funding would start flowing to the University almost immediately so that construction could get underway.
The iAccelerate Centre is designed to provide a ‘plug and go’ expandable space for more than 280 entrepreneurs of fast growth startup companies. iAccelerate will provide support, mentorship, professional services and access to seed funding for companies as they develop.
Vice-Chancellor Professor Paul Wellings said iAccelerate is a critical step in transforming the Illawarra’s manufacturing based economy into a high-tech industry cluster.
“The Illawarra is a region undergoing radical economic transition with the traditional manufacturing and heavy industrial base facing sharp employment declines. iAccelerate consists of a unique set of programs built around entrepreneurship, innovation and the ICT technology skills of UOW graduates. It is based on the same successful model from Waterloo, Canada, a region which has transformed itself from a manufacturing-based economy to the ‘Silicon Valley’ of Canada,” Professor Wellings said.
The Director of Innovation and Commercial Research at UOW, Ms Elizabeth Eastland, said that during her time developing and spearheading the iAccelerate project she had been humbled by the local Illawarra community support.
“Not only have we enjoyed tremendous backing from UOW senior executives but we have also been overwhelmed by the support from the Illawarra business community. Couple this with the University of Wollongong's expertise in research, innovation development and our world class technology graduates and it makes us a formidable force in the Australian startup community.”
Ms Eastland said the iAccelerate Startpad, which UOW has been operating in partnership with Wollongong City Council and NSW Trade & Investment in the Wollongong CDB, showed what potential there was for iAccelerate to transform the regional economy.
“In just two years of operating the iAccelerate Startpad we have hosted 25 startup companies representing 52 entrepreneurs and new jobs – with just 20 available spaces. The iAccelerate Centre will house 10 times as many spaces for entrepreneurs.
“Waterloo in Canada is a region very similar to the Illawarra that has transformed itself from a manufacturing-based region to the ‘most innovative city in Canada’ 19 years in a row. It has grown 28,000 new high tech jobs in that time, while Waterloo Accelerator has generated over 680 new jobs in just over five years.
“We have been and will continue to work closely with Waterloo Accelerator Centre to adapt their methodologies to the Illawarra. When governments, business and research collaborate to form innovation ecosystems an exponential benefit arises often called a 'virtuous circle'. We anticipate the same success with iAccelerate.”
Ms Eastland said the NSW Government and Infrastructure NSW's investment in the iAccelerate vision was testament to their belief in the Illawarra’s future and growing technology credentials.
And see UOW-TV coverage at http://youtu.be/0U7JDyDgtYo