Southern Cross University has been awarded $1 million from the NSW Government, through the Boosting Business Innovation Program, to establish the Southern Cross Enterprise Lab at its Lismore campus.
The Southern Cross Enterprise Lab will facilitate collaborative opportunities between small and medium enterprises (SME), students and researchers for mutual benefit in the context of supporting the sustainable development of the Northern Rivers region. It will function as a node of a broader network across NSW focused on building an innovation ecosystem accessible to all communities.
Minister for Regional Development, Skills and Small Business John Barilaro made the announcement at the University’s Lismore campus on Wednesday July 27.
“Collaboration and sharing ideas is a key driver of innovation in small business and this program will ensure start-ups and entrepreneurs in the Northern Rivers have access to a space that will allow them to do this, parallel to those in the Sydney metropolitan area,” Mr Barilaro said.
Minister Barliaro paid tribute to Southern Cross University for the idea of creating the Enterprise Lab as a focal point for innovation and entrepreneurialism in regional communities. In early discussions with SCU, the idea for a networked innovation system in New South Wales emerged that positioned universities as key drivers for innovation. The Government announced that it will now partner with 12 organisations across the state to create this new networked innovation system.
Southern Cross University Vice Chancellor Professor Peter Lee welcomed the news.
“SCU is focused on providing engaged and industry relevant learning experiences for our students that equip them for their future lives and careers ahead, whilst also creating impact in the regions our campuses are located,” Professor Lee said.
Member for Lismore Thomas George said the funding would support efforts to develop local talent to support regional business needs and build on the University’s particular research strengths.
“This funding will help Southern Cross University further promote and develop its research capabilities in collaboration with local businesses.
“It will help to accelerate local industry development create better local business networks throughout the Northern Rivers,” said Mr George.
The Northern Rivers has been identified as one of the innovation hotspots in regional Australia, and considered one of six key innovation clusters that includes capital cities and the Gold Coast.
North Coast Nationals MLC Ben Franklin said it was critical for regional communities to have facilities at par with their metropolitan counterparts.
“We know that the calibre of facilities need to be equal to or better than similar places in the capital cities in order to attract talent.
“This funding will enable SCU to establish a facility that has the potential to do that for the North Coast,” Mr Franklin said.
Ben Roche, director of Engagement at SCU, said the Enterprise Lab presented an exciting opportunity to SMEs.
“The establishment of the Enterprise Lab is great news for emerging and current small to medium enterprises, who will be able to apply to participate in programs that focus on developing entrepreneurial skills and capacity in order to boost innovation and productivity,” he said.
“The Australian Innovation System Report in 2015 highlighted that forming clusters of activity was critical to enabling the development of entrepreneurial skills required to transform regional economies and communities. The Enterprise Lab will be a platform for connectivity and collaboration in the Northern Rivers.”
Mr Roche said the Enterprise Lab would create specialised industry-focused program areas that involved students, staff, communities and external participating organisations, to develop the requisite talent, capacity and connections required for the future development of regional communities.
“This is key to how the Lab will differentiate. It will focus on developing talent, not just ideas, that will align with identified regional needs and the research strengths of Southern Cross University. For instance, digital disruption in food and agriculture, healthy ageing and collaborative farming are indicative program focus areas,” he said.
“We anticipate the Lab will support more than 30 participants in 2016 and form a larger network of individuals and organisations around these programs.”