Digital innovation hub for COVID-hit businesses unveiled

innovation, digital

SMEs affected by the COVID-19 pandemic will soon have an opportunity to access a collaboration and innovation hub that to assist them in their growth and recovery, with the Victorian Government announcing that it is allocating $2 million to the Digital Innovation and SME Hub (the DISH) at Deakin University. Deakin are million. A further $1 million will come from industry investment.

Businesses that join the DISH will benefit from Deakin’s research, education and partnership capabilities, support services, and technologies to help in their business growth in a post-COVID environment. This support will include health checks conducted by Deakin’s Faculty of Business and Law, the School of IT and partner organisations to identify new product opportunities, funding, cashflow and efficiency improvements. It will also enable them to explore potential new markets, and participate in post-COVID bootcamps, innovation workshops, rapid hackathons and research and development opportunities to help businesses adapt to a digital world.

The repurposed and redesigned space at the university’s Burwood campus will be the site of the hub, which will initially concentrate on SMEs in sectors such as manufacturing, healthcare and trades. The project is expected to create 122 direct jobs by 2025, with more jobs expected to be created by the SMEs participating in the program.

Deakin University Vice-Chancellor Professor Iain Martin welcomed the Victorian Government’s investment, which will allow local businesses to access Deakin’s expertise in business, arts and health, artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and automation, cybersecurity, 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,” Professor 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 Professor Julie Owens said the DISH will provide fresh research opportunities and on-the-job learning experiences for 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 first construction phase of the new digital collaboration and learning space is due for completion by March 2022.