"Innovation is a lot more than inner-city hipsters who try to build the next great app while drinking soy lattes at trendy warehouses" writes Tony Featherstone
Many Regional Australian towns are in distress - and there is an urgent need to develop new industries or invigorate old ones as the new economy unfolds.
Their needs to be an innovation focus on regional entrepreneurship, local government collaboration and small business, and Turnbulls appointment of the new Federal Minister for Small Business, Michael McCormack is genius !
A Small Business Minister with country connections! My view is that he should also take on the portfolio of innovation, AusTrade and AusIndustry - they all go hand in hand!
The Innovation agenda should be used as a tool to address today's problems:
- job losses in manufacturing and mining,
- high youth unemployment
- stagnating regional economies, for example.
Innovation is a process to bring groups together, encourage collaboration and creativity, and link emerging enterprises with established industries.
Let's balance the capital-city version of innovation with policy that:
Helps develop vibrant regional entrepreneurship ecosystems that create thriving clusters of new and established business activity in country areas
Presents innovation as a process to help regional economies transition from the decline in manufacturing and other traditional industries, to higher-growth sectors
Creates the option of self-employment for young people in regional areas who cannot find full-time work
Reverses the brain drain as bright young 20-somethings are forced to move to capital cities to start ventures or work for others
Makes regional areas great places to live AND work, creating social inclusion for young people and more harmonious communities
Has real benefits for capital cities. Creating vibrant regional innovation hubs could encourage urban entrepreneurs to move to areas that are close to capital cities. That would help de-centralise population growth away from capital cities, as regional businesses grow and create jobs
Helps develop a stronger national entrepreneurship ecosystem by giving start-ups that are struggling with scarce resources greater options to work in lower-cost regional areas.
How can we do this using existing infrastructure?
We should take a leaf out of the massively successful Uber - ( listened to a great talk at an Amcham lunch yesterday) (thanks Niels) .
How can we utilise existing assets and existing infrastructure to ignite innovation in regional Australia?
Australia has already built a massive infrastructure built around Councils.
How can Councils spark the drive for communities to build on their strengths (which is invariably there people) and actively support innovation and entrepreneurship
Councils in Ipswich, the Sunshine Coast, the northern suburbs of Adelaide and north Queensland, to name a few, understand innovation's potential to invigorate their economies and have done some cool things , such as
- implementing smart-city technologies, planning and processes;
- launching co-working spaces for start-ups; and
- creating entrepreneurship ecosystems.
Other councils should follow their lead and federal and state governments can help by framing a co-ordinated agenda – and funding – for regional innovation and entrepreneurship.
Imagine having a goal for your local town to be an innovation hotspot that is linked to your capital-city entrepreneurship ecosystem and university, rage or learning institution!
- Imagine if your local town had a simple, low-cost co-working spaces for start-up ventures - supported by mentors, existing businesses and greys, aligning them with educational institutions and VET providers -
(How many government owned buildings/ spaces are unlet or underutilised? The infrastructure is there !!)
- Imagine if your local Council had a Crowdfunding Council platform where residents fund local ventures with funding to start-ups in their area and perhaps take equity in some.
- Imagine if those loans would be Government Gauranteed if it was supported by an accreditted mentor. (they do this in USA.)
The real opportunity is linking bright young regional start-ups with established businesses
How can councils create collisions of innovation between the new and old that drive entrepreneurship?
There's never been a better time.
A focus on a co-ordinated regional innovation is good policy AND politics.