University of New England Vice Chancellor Professor Annabelle Duncan, left, Smart Region Incubator Director Dr Lou Conway and Northern Tablelands MP Adam Marshall at the funding announcement yesterday.

Tuesday, 4 September 2018

NORTHERN Tablelands MP Adam Marshall has announced a $300,000 funding boost for the University of New England Smart Region Incubator (SRI) to help more of the region’s young entrepreneurs kick start their businesses in a major campaign to boost jobs, drive collaboration and support their fledgling enterprises.

Mr Marshall was joined by academics and business managers from the University of New England and local entrepreneurs yesterday to officially launch the Local Innovation Program that will give some serious business support to emerging and innovative start up and small and medium sized enterprises.

“This program and the funding awarded to the SRI to undertake it will basically turbocharge regional innovation and drive business through entrepreneurs looking to kickstart their enterprises,” Mr Marshall said.

“This program will work in collaboration with councils in Armidale and Tamworth, but also will put a framework in place for entrepreneurs to get critical start-up business advice and skills from Gunnedah, to Moree and Narrabri, to Glen Innes and Inverell and all points in between.

“This is a terrific boost for startups and SMEs in New England that will unlock the region’s enormous potential.

“It will support these regional areas to develop networked communities through online platforms, through face to face masterclasses, and with a regional mentoring system.

“Startups across the New England region can expect improved access to support clients, mentoring and investment opportunities both in and outside the region thanks to new opportunities to connect with other regional entrepreneurs.”

Dr Lou Conway, from the UNE Business School, and the director of the Smart Region Incubator at UNE, said the program would kick off with the first masterclass in Gunnedah in October.

Dr Conway said the program would allow potential entrepreneurs and many young tech enterprise activities to tap into a virtual business bank of ideas and acumen.

Dr Conway said it would provide business planning and professional development designed to focus on the opportunities to give their businesses legs.

She said this could include everything from looking at the viability of the startup, how to attract customers, how to pitch for investment, the processes involved in building a business, and how to turn small ideas into full time activities.

The northern regional program is one of seven locations in the new network which also includes Bathurst, Wagga Wagga, Coffs Harbour, Byron Bay, Newcastle and Wollongong.

It will be run from the SRI but at a faculty level through the UNE’s Science, Agriculture, Business and Law faculty.

Mr Marshall said the 12-month program had a crucial element to support the region to identify and address any barriers to local innovation – and give them a leg up to build businesses that will create jobs in regional NSW.

Mr Marshall said the NSW Government’s Local Innovation Network is a $2.1 million investment in supporting entrepreneurs in regional areas.

“One in ten entrepreneurs in NSW lives outside a metropolitan precinct, and it is vital they receive the assistance they need to develop their businesses and their skills,” Mr Marshall said.

“It is great to see the UNE entrusted with funding under this network program to build the capacity and capability of entrepreneurs in the New England North West region.

“The UNE Smart Region Incubator is all about creating a globally recognised and vibrant startup community in the New England North West and under this program it will also connect entrepreneurs of all ages with mentors and researchers so we can boost the number of successful enterprises in regional NSW.”

“By doing that, by providing that solid framework for small and innovative businesses to actually get off the ground with a background of business skills behind them, then we are driving economic growth and boosting jobs for more people in the regions.”

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