Bushfire affected areas in the Southern Highlands and Southern Tablelands are set to benefit from a grant of almost $1 million.
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.
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," he said.
"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.
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.