Deakin University will establish a centre dedicated to supporting collaboration and innovation among SMEs, thanks to a $2 million funding boost announced by the Victorian government.
The Digital Innovation and SME Hub (the DISH), based on the university’s Burwood campus, will leverage Deakin’s research, education and partnership capabilities to help businesses overcome hurdles and drive growth.
The repurposed and redesigned space will particularly cater to SMEs in the sectors of manufacturing, healthcare and trades. In addition to the funding from the Victorian Higher Education State Investment Fund, Deakin will also contribute $3.5 million to the project, with a further $1 million to come from industry investment.
The DISH at Deakin’s Burwood Campus will include:
- A live cyber defence centre and cyber testing and hacking lab that will help businesses improve their cyber security.
- Two co-innovation labs and an industry makers room to create new products, devices and industrial systems.
- An advanced AI, robotics and automation lab exploring artificial intelligence, machine learning, the internet of things, advanced data analytics and mixed reality.
- An events space for digital tradeshows, industry forums, roundtables and other events.
- Sprint rooms designed for “idea hacking”.
- Facilitation spaces.
Businesses that participate will also have access to Deakin’s business, law and IT faculty for consultation on new product opportunities, new markets, funding, cash flow and efficiency improvements.
The first construction phase is due to be completed by March 2022.
Deakin University vice-chancellor Iain Martin said the hub would give SMEs access to Deakin’s wide expertise across the sectors of business, arts and health, artificial intelligence, machine learning and automation, cyber security, product development and commercialisation.
“This project is a great example of how universities, governments and the private sector can work together to provide end-to-end SME support while enhancing Victoria’s research capabilities,” Mr Martin said.
“The DISH’s clear regional focus will ensure our local communities bounce back strongly after the significant challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Deakin University deputy vice-chancellor research Julie Owens noted the benefits the program would deliver to Deakin’s students.
“The partnerships produced by and within the DISH will help define the jobs and skills of the future and shape our coursework,” Professor Owens said.
“The DISH will play a key role in ensuring our students are job-ready and that they understand the significant benefits, including increased opportunities to make a real-world difference, that come from working within Victoria’s small businesses.”
The project is expected to create 122 direct jobs by 2025, with more jobs expected to be created in the SMEs participating in the program.