[box]#feb026[/box]A program designed to help spark and support innovation and entrepreneurs in the Illawarra region has been recognised at an international conference for its approach to driving regional change.
The University of Wollongong (UOW) iAccelerate initiative picked up an award for best case study at the University Industry Innovation Network Conference for Entrepreneurial Universities held in Madrid, Spain.
The 2014 Entrepreneurial Universities Event brought together close to 150 academics and professionals who are at the forefront of driving the transition from a traditional university to one that is more engaged with its local community and become more innovative and entrepreneurial.
The Director of Innovation and Commercial Research at UOW and iAccelerate CEO, Ms Elizabeth Eastland, presented iAccelerate as a case study of how a regional innovation accelerator was transforming a declining manufacturing economy.
Ms Eastland was presented with an award for best case study following her published case study and presentation of how iAccelerate, started in 2011, was using a set of mentoring and education programs to nurture regional entrepreneurship, innovation based on the skills of UOW’s large pipeline of information technology graduates.
With the Illawarra in the midst of its transformation from a manufacturing and mining base, iAccelerate will diversify the region’s industrial base, capturing the intellectual capital of the region and retaining high quality graduates.
Ms Eastland said during the past four years iAccelerate has built an entrepreneurship club with more than 800 participants; provides a series of workshops (pictured above) and lectures designed to address the critical business issues facing startups; and is currently providing an entrepreneurial working spaces capable of hosting 70 people building startups.
“The judges made comments about how fast we had moved in so short a time and that our vision and action to fulfilling that were bold,” Ms Eastland said.
“Many of the attendees from regional areas in Europe wanted to connect and ask questions about how we had done what we had done so they could also do it.
“It was thrilling to for a UOW initiative to be considered a best practice entrepreneurial university at an international event.”
iAccelerate recently entered into a five-year memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Accelerator Centre (AC), in Waterloo, Canada, to provide programming and mentorship aimed at helping young technology companies and entrepreneurs achieve sustainable business growth in the Australian startup landscape.
It recently launched a $10 million seed fund to attract investors with a passion and commitment to the startup sector. In turn, the fund will provide investors with access to a unique pipeline of early stage business investment opportunities.
Entrepreneurs will also benefit from the region’s first purpose-built high-tech incubator following the start of construction last month of the 4,000 square metre iAccelerate Centre at UOW’s Innovation Campus. The Centre will provide space for more than 280 entrepreneurs.