The Hunter is fast establishing a reputation as a committed transition economy- Alex Brennan
IN THE NEWS:
You are chair of Hunter iF. When was the organisation formed and what is its remit?
Hunter iF formed in 2017 with the collaboration of a number of government, research, educational and commercial entities. Our remit is to encourage and facilitate investment, jobs and growth in the Hunter Valley region by providing a one-stop shop for innovation.
What was the "vision" of the iF Project commissioned in late 2017?
The Vision is: "By 2025 the Hunter Region is internationally acknowledged as a thriving centre of innovation that has successfully transitioned into a knowledge-based economy." The mission was to provide a comprehensive, cohesive and connected regional innovation ecosystem to accelerate innovative ideas to successful outcomes.
Ultimately, Hunter iF aims to unite a variety of organisations and players who have worked to grow programs, capability and funding for innovation and entrepreneurship over the years. To create collaboration and engagement designed to strengthen industry, grow new businesses, strengthen current businesses, grow new industries providing jobs for our people, and attract new business and investment.
How much has been adopted of the Project's immediate, medium-term and long-term recommendations?
Many of the short term recommendations were enacted quickly and with immediate impact. Some of our recommendations were discovered to already exist in the Hunter, for example, Slingshot Accelerator existed where it was suggested to establish an incubator. Rather than reinvent the wheel and duplicate efforts we have actively promoted and funnelled innovators into programs like Slingshot and The Melt. We work closely with Hunter Angels to identify promising start-ups seeking angel investors, and with I2N to share and promote innovators in the region. The creation of a knowledge economy continues to evolve, and with the recent focus on the transition to renewable energy, we continue to play an important role as a facilitator of investment, jobs and growth.
The Hunter region is well placed to be a "10-years in the making overnight success", according to Hunter iF. At what stage do you believe it is at now?
Around the halfway mark. With the establishment of a renewable energy zone, significant investment in hydrogen technology across a number of entities and a huge amount of knowledge sharing while we build out new technology, the Hunter is fast establishing a reputation as a committed transition economy. Within the next five years, possibly more, I can see a range of energy exports from the Port of Newcastle, a more diverse port and a thriving technology sector supporting our new industries.
Grassroots to Greatness is the next Hunter iF event. What is up for discussion?
The aim is to demonstrate to up and coming innovators how they can successfully access funding, knowledge, networks and experience to grow their business and create a significant impact on the region. We'll discuss how varying levels of government can provide access or introduction to sources of funding and knowledge to grow businesses. How building and leveraging a network locally in the Hunter can provide a significant support network to growing businesses, and how leveraging that network more broadly across Australia and further abroad can accelerate growth.
Who is on the panel, and who can attend?
We have Alice Thompson, CEO of Committee for the Hunter, Justin Hales, CEO of Camplify, Justin Bain, CEO of 3ME Technology, Grayson Wolfgang, Regional Manager at AusIndustry, Siobhan Curran, Senior Manager at I2N. Anyone can attend and all are welcome. The event is of particular interest to innovators, business owners and service providers to start up and scale up businesses.
What does Hunter iF believe are the big opportunities in the Hunter "innovation ecosystem" right now?
Supporting the growing industry sectors in technology, advanced manufacturing and the transition economy. New technologies that save energy, create efficiency or improve manufacturing capability will be of interest to investors and adopters.
What, on the contrary, are seen as obstacles?
Obstacles to being a successful innovator are often driven by a lack of understanding of their particular product or service. If an innovator is unable to adequately articulate their products' benefits and support that with clear and compelling financials, they will find it hard to secure funding and mentoring support services.
What do you hope will come out of the Grassroots to Greatness?
We hope to create an environment where connections can be made, collaborations formed, and innovation ideated. We aim to educate up-and-coming innovators as to how to move their business to the next stage of growth by providing them with the connections, actions and inspiration.
Next in the pipeline?
We have the Hunter Innovation Festival in October, hosted in partnership with The Spark Festival, and more Innovator Lunches.
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