UOW initiative to boost economic resilience and create jobs
The University of Wollongong’s (UOW) business incubator and accelerator iAccelerate has been awarded $999,570 from the Federal and NSW governments’ combined Bushfire Local Economic Recovery Fund (BLER) to bring the iAccelerate program to 10 bushfire-affected regions, including four Local Aboriginal Land Council areas.
The project, led by UOW’s iAccelerate, will deliver education programs to support 90 of the most promising entrepreneurs and business owners in bushfire affected areas to create 300 new jobs.
Building on the success of the existing Bega Valley Innovation Hub, which iAccelerate launched in 2019 to drive regional innovation, the new project will target bushfire-affected regions by offering entrepreneurs access to economic resilience programs for industry and business development.
The funding awarded will allow UOW to work with specific local government areas (LGAs) to deliver the program through local facilitators. The program will roll out in the Bega Valley Shire, Eurobodalla Shire, Goulburn Mulwaree, Queanbeyan-Palerang, Snowy Monaro, Wingecarribee Shire, as well as four Local Aboriginal Land Councils.
The program was developed in consultation with local government and in speaking to the local communities.
Chris Petersilge, iAccelerate Ecosystem Evangelist said that in addition to increasing economic resilience, the program will also help to keep young people in the regions by providing employment and business opportunities.
“Having launched the Bega Valley Innovation Hub in NSW’s far South Coast, iAccelerate is familiar with the challenges and opportunities faced with supporting regional entrepreneurs. With over a decade of creating new industries and over 700 jobs in Wollongong, we’re ready to bring this model created in the Bega Valley to more bushfire-affected areas.”
As part of the project UOW will be working in close partnership with the NSW Aboriginal Land Council’s Yarpa Indigenous Business and Employment Hub (Yarpa) to deliver the program to bushfire affected Indigenous communities in NSW.
Since 2019, UOW has had a Memorandum of Understanding with the NSW Aboriginal Land Council.
Last year, Yarpa licensed the iAccelerate ‘Activate’ program to run a pilot for their entrepreneurs, working with the business incubator to adapt the job-creating program to the needs of Indigenous entrepreneurs in NSW to strengthen and grow the Indigenous start-up sector.
This new project will build on the pilot to deliver more training, connections, and support for Indigenous entrepreneurs in bushfire-affected communities to help them start their own businesses as a form of economic independence and prosperity.
“Yarpa Indigenous Business & Employment Hub is very proud to be in support of UOW through the delivery of the iAccelerate Activate program where this type of support is needed the most, the bushfire-affected areas,” said Westley Trist, Industry Relationship & Strategic Partnerships Manager at Yarpa Hub.
“We view these opportunities as a catalyst for economic bounce back within the regions meaning new jobs and stronger businesses. Being a materialisation for one of Yarpa’s main goals, ‘to pursue economic independence and prosperity for our people’, we enthusiastically look forward to the future of the program.”
iAccelerate is one of 195 local community projects supporting economic or social recovery, strengthening resilience and delivering ongoing community benefit to bushfire-affected communities in NSW to receive stage 2 BLER funding.
UOW Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation) Professor Jennifer L Martin congratulated the iAccelerate team on the announcement.
“UOW continues to foster innovation through providing leading entrepreneurial education programs. I look forward to seeing the roll out of the iAccelerate Activate program to bushfire-affected areas to create new jobs in the regions,” Professor Martin said.
About the Bushfire Local Economic Recovery Package
The Bushfire Local Economic Recovery (BLER) Package is part of the $4.5 billion bushfire support program co-funded by the Australian and NSW governments for bushfire recovery, response and preparedness in NSW.
iAccelerate is a unique business accelerator and incubator program at UOW, where start-ups, scaleups, social enterprises and businesses thrive. Businesses are supported by a robust model of education, mentoring, seed funding and unparalleled access to one of the world’s most innovative young research universities.
About Yarpa Hub
The NSW Aboriginal Land Council (NSWALC) has partnered with the Australian Government, under the Indigenous Business Sector Strategy (IBSS), to design and deliver the Yarpa Indigenous Business and Employment Hub (Yarpa Hub).
The Yarpa Hub is helping build a strong, diverse and self-supporting Indigenous business sector that will empower Indigenous people and place Indigenous business owners and their communities in the driver’s seat of their economic future.
Main picture: iAccelerate facilitator Sabine Straver delivering the iAccelerate Activate program.