iAccelerate Centre opening heralds innovation boom
Turning great ideas into thriving businesses will help transform the Illawarra region.
The NSW Minister for Industry, Resources and Energy the Hon. Anthony Roberts MP today (19 July) officially opened the new home for the University of Wollongong’s (UOW) business incubator and accelerator, the iAccelerate Centre.
The iAccelerate Centre was made possible through $16.5 million from the NSW Government’s Restart NSW Illawarra Infrastructure Fund. The state-of-the-art, three-storey, 4000 square metre building features “plug and go” expandable space for more than 280 entrepreneurs.
The centre houses a set of tailored acceleration programs aimed at rapidly developing and delivering technology-focused businesses. It is a place where people can explore new ideas and technologies, take risks and connect their work with others.
The building’s design pays homage to the Port and Illawarra’s export heritage and heralds a new era where innovation, technology and ideas are exported from the Illawarra to the world.
Exposed steel was used throughout the building as a vote of confidence and to show support to the local Illawarra steel manufacturing industry and its employees.
The investment in a purpose-built building will have significant, far reaching and long-lasting positive outcomes for not only the Illawarra but also for NSW more broadly. Innovative ideas will reach the market sooner.
The purpose-built iAccelerate Centre will help innovative ideas reach the market sooner.
Minister Roberts said: “The University’s $600 million Innovation Campus technology precinct is providing an outstanding collaborative environment for information and communication technology companies to work with the University’s world class research teams,” he said.
“I applaud the University for moving quickly to bring this exciting project to fruition providing an environment where start-ups can flourish and businesses can grow.
“With the opening of the iAccelerate Centre, the University is making a significant investment in further developing the innovation ecosystem in the Illawarra and helping the region to adapt and thrive in an ever-changing, globalised future.
“NSW is already home to just under 50 per cent of the nation’s startups, which is more than any other state in Australia.
"We want to see that grow and, with iAccelerate now up and running, we expect that the Illawarra will be a significant contributor.”
The UOW-backed iAccelerate program provides the infrastructure, mentoring and education programs for great ideas to grow and helps connect entrepreneurs with funding opportunities.
Since 2012, the iAccelerate program has operated from the adjacent Mike Codd Building and has supported 65 start-up companies, creating 143 jobs.
Nine companies have had new product launches and in 2015, six companies expanded their international presence. Female co-founders currently make up just under half of iAccelerate’s 32 start-up companies (47 per cent).
Newly appointed CEO Omar Khalifa said iAccelerate would play a role in guiding, encouraging and fostering the development of innovation.
“We seek to inspire and to facilitate innovation by supporting the innovators, not only through our own program but by building the pathways throughout the Illawarra community and beyond.”
The NSW Minister for Industry, Resources and Energy the Hon. Anthony Roberts MP talks to Me3D co-founder Matthew Connelly.
UOW graduate Adam Poole has been able to turn his innovative idea for a workplace safety application that cuts through the paperwork involved with documenting safe work procedures and hazards into reality.
He has moved into the purpose-built iAccelerate Centre to further develop his business, which is now his full-time job and employs three people.
“I’m from Wollongong and the app was born here,” he said. “iAccelerate is a great place for us to establish a company base and utilise the iAccelerate expertise in growing our product from Wollongong.
“Everything from pitch training to making connections and receiving advice years afterwards has helped immensely. The funding I received allowed me to have a high fidelity prototype built, which was used to gain further investment.”
UOW Vice-Chancellor Professor Paul Wellings CBE said the iAccelerate Centre would capture the intellectual capital of the Illawarra by retaining the University’s high-quality graduates while making the Illawarra a destination for innovators and investors.
“The Illawarra has the potential to be transformed from a manufacturing-based region to an international innovation hub with new industries,” Professor Wellings said.
“The iAccelerate Centre will bring new investments into the region, create diverse and sustainable employment opportunities and attract new resources to the Illawarra.
"Young businesses are given the leading edge to succeed at iAccelerate and they can gain global success from right here in Wollongong.”
The Centre will be located at UOW’s Innovation Campus, a $600 million master-planned community designed to encourage the creation of networks and interaction among like-minded entrepreneurs, mentors and advisers.
It has been a previous winner of the Best Business and Industrial Park Development in Australia by the Property Council of Australia.
The Innovation Campus seeks to creatively drive economic diversification in the Illawarra, transitioning from conventional manufacturing to advanced technologies.
It is the engine to drive growth of an innovation and technology ecosystem that captures the intellectual capital of the region.