Major breakthrough for Hunter innovation
The partners of a unique collaboration between major education, research, business, government and community organisations in Newcastle have welcomed a funding announcement that heralds a great leap forward for the Hunter Region in the digital age.
Today's $9.8 million commitment from the NSW Government through the Hunter Infrastructure and Investment Fund (HIIF) will support the Hunter Innovation Project (HIP) - a partnership between Newcastle City Council, The University of Newcastle, Newcastle Now and Hunter DiGiT.
The HIP partners will also contribute a further $8 million to the project, which will include the installation of smart technology and Wi-Fi throughout Newcastle's CBD and the establishment of an innovation hub for researchers, industry and entrepreneurs to commercialise ideas and promote economic development.
The HIP’s ‘smart city’ infrastructure will allow businesses and local innovators to leverage the region’s strengths in advanced manufacturing, health technology, renewable energy and education, and capitalise on the connectivity, reach and scale of the rapidly growing digital and knowledge economy. It is the infrastructure component of the partners' broader ambition to generate significant new activity across the regional innovation ecosystem.
"Today's HIIF grant will support economic growth, jobs and spur innovation-led growth, and I would like to congratulate our partners on today's good news," Newcastle Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes said.
"The Hunter Innovation Project is a collaborative effort and a key component of Council's Smart City strategy to provide physical spaces, digital connectivity and city-data to increase opportunity for entrepreneurs and businesses to thrive in the digital century.
"It will provide smart city infrastructure like Wi-Fi, smart parking and lighting, and an innovation hub where sharp thinkers can put their minds together to make our city and region a better place to live, work, visit and invest.”
For each direct job created by the HIP, five additional flow-on jobs are expected to be created throughout Newcastle and the region. Over 700 local jobs will be created as an indirect impact.
University of Newcastle Senior Deputy Vice Chancellor and Vice President - Global Engagement and Partnerships, Associate Professor Kevin Hall, said the funding would support an increased engagement between the University and different industry sectors across the region.
“The Hunter Innovation Project will allow us to harness the University’s reputation for research excellence to facilitate close ties between academia, business and industry," Professor Hall said.
"Together with our partners, these collaborative efforts will nurture home-grown research, innovation and creativity to drive the region’s economic and cultural success.”
Executive Manager for Newcastle Now Business Improvement Association, Michael Neilson, hailed the funding as a great day for the Hunter's innovators.
"The Hunter Innovation Project is an exciting opportunity for the region," he said.
"Not only will residents, businesses and visitors benefit from smart city solutions, this new infrastructure will create an environment for budding entrepreneurs to experiment and innovate within our city centre."
President of Hunter DiGiT, James Vidler, said future economic prosperity would heavily depend on the capacity to turn ideas into services and products that generate value.
"That is what defines an Innovation Economy," Vidler said.
"The Hunter Innovation Project's goal is to seed an innovation ecosystem that draws talented people in and harnesses their collective potential."
The HIIF grant will contribute $9.8 million towards an overall HIP budget of $18 million, and the project will deliver three key elements by early 2019:
- AN INNOVATION HUB: a dedicated facility in the Newcastle CBD which will bring together researchers, students, developers, entrepreneurs, investors, technical specialists and business advisors. By linking with and showcasing the University of Newcastle’s existing Innovation and Entrepreneurship programs, the Innovation Hub will form part of the University’s Integrated Innovation Network (I2N) and will: facilitate the launch of spinoffs, start-ups and mature companies; attract investment and businesses to the Hunter Region; encourage innovation and commercialisation; and produce the next generation of entrepreneurs, business leaders and inventors.
- A DIGITAL PRECINCT: a designated Newcastle City Centre zone with fibre-based broadband to approximately 250 properties. This concentrated capability will give the Hunter Region a key competitive advantage in attracting and retaining high-tech, digital and creative industries to stay or locate in the region.
- SMART CITIES INFRASTRUCTURE: The Smart Cities network involves an array of Wi-Fi linked sensors and integrated technology located initially throughout the Newcastle CBD. It will provide detailed real time data on the performance of city infrastructure, facilitating an open- ended range of services and applications to improve the ease of access, efficiency and liveability of the city for residents, businesses and tourists. Through this infrastructure a new source of ‘open, big data’ will become available to start-ups, entrepreneurs, and the public to develop and test information technology products through the Innovation Hub and the wider innovation ecosystem.