Globally, innovation is recognised as a key pathway to productivity, sustainability and effectiveness in both the public and private sectors. In order for Australia to remain internationally competitive, all areas of the economy need to be actively involved in innovation. This is especially true of regional Australia, given that regional areas are major contributors to national productivity.
Innovation is quite the buzzword these days. It brings to mind images of new tech solutions to our everyday problems, young teams in open plan offices, and thriving inner-city hubs with new startups launching every other day.
In regional areas however, innovation looks a little different. Regional innovators face a set of challenges that those in the city do not. In the extended wake of the global financial crisis and a national economy that is gradually shifting its dependence from the mining industry, there is a need for innovation in regional business and agriculture throughout Australia. Yet regional areas still lag behind their urban counterparts when it comes to producing new, scaleable businesses that solve problems in new and unique ways.
One of the challenges to regional innovators is that the knowledge transfer from city to country can often take four years or more to occur. People living in rural and regional areas don’t always have access to the types of expertise and networks that those in the city can reach.
Another challenge facing regional areas is the net migration of young people leaving their country homes for education and work opportunities in urban centres and overseas. Statistics show that they are unlikely to return in a hurry. There are fewer employment opportunities, with a far lesser variety of career options in regional Australia, and household incomes are lower on average than those close to the city (Change and Disadvantage in regional Victoria, 2011).
So, how can these challenges be overcome, and innovation, employment and the economy be boosted in regional areas? Firstly, there is a need for government policy and budgeting that supports regional innovation, especially in sectors most in need of transformation and creativity. The current policy model of the Victorian state government is one that integrates innovation and sustainability as an integral part of the regional development policy agenda. This presents an unprecedented opportunity to scale regional innovation, and it is an approach that we at One10 are 100% behind.
The ongoing economic development of regional areas is central to new job generation, nurturing innovative ideas, and capitalising on the changing sector landscapes and opportunities to build sustainable enterprises. Providing regional hubs for entrepreneurs to gain the expertise, networks and support they need to develop their innovative ideas and build scalable businesses, is one solution to the challenges faced by people in regional Victoria.
One10, a partner of the Impact Investment Fund, is in the process of opening discussions with local community groups to determine the best way to deliver startup consulting, incubation, acceleration and scale services to people residing in regional areas. We believe that with adequate support, transformative and industry-leading ideas will begin emerging from regional areas, where real experiences of local challenges will shape real local solutions. There is an abundance of ideas and potential waiting to be unleashed in regional Victoria. By connecting regional enterprises with global opportunities, we are going to ensure that these transformative ideas are heard.