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A new collaboration

The University of New England (UNE) will establish a new Business Innovation Hub in the centre of Armidale by mid-2021, as a part of a commitment to stronger more purposeful community engagement.

Armidale Regional Council (ARC) will provide the former Armidale War Memorial Library building which UNE will renovate to locate UNE’s SMART Region Incubator (SRI) in the CBD.

The SRI will be responsible for running the day-to-day operations the new facility and will offer programs to engage and inspire new and existing founders of businesses and build the enterprise capacity of the community.

“The Business Innovation Hub will provide a focal point for a range of activities that will encompass existing businesses as well as new start-ups,” said Armidale Mayor Ian Tiley.

“It will help to kick start the local economy by embracing innovative approaches and solutions to regional economic issues.

“This partnership is a solid first step in bridging the gap between town and gown in the Armidale region and provides a marquee, highly successful program like SRI prominence within the Armidale CBD which will contribute significantly to the reactivation of the CBD area,” he said.

Across 2019, ARC, UNE and local business community champions worked together to imagine how a collaboration to create a Business Innovation Hub could transform business development support in the Armidale region.

With prolonged drought, bushfires and COVID this need intensified and in early 2020 ARC was successful in attracting a drought relief grant from the NSW Government for major structural works to the Old Armidale Library.  As the new tenant, UNE will complete the internal refurbishment and welcome other business support agencies to co-locate in the building.

UNE Vice-Chancellor and CEO Professor Brigid Heywood said she is excited to support young and emerging entrepreneurs and build innovation partnerships and international connections

“Our students will have greater opportunity to intern with start-ups and businesses to support the innovative and exciting new business opportunities  emerging across the region,” Professor Heywood said.

ARC will lease the building at a peppercorn rent as its contribution to the Business Innovation Hub.

The redevelopment of the Old Library will include fitting out a number of shared workstations, hot desk and micro-offices, along with meetings rooms, digital suites and a 90 seat auditorium for on-site workshops, presentations and launches. This will join the growing network of SRI partnership facilities across the New England North West region including those being developed in Tamworth and Moree.

The UNE SMART Region Incubator is the University’s owned and operated business incubator delivering support to new and existing businesses across the New England North West. In 2020 the SRI supported 72 business founders and 58 start-ups who have created 151 jobs and attracted nearly $14 million in investment in the New England region. It is recognised globally as one of the leading regional incubators adding value to remote, rural and regionally based business and start-ups.

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