The Victorian government will contribute $2 million in funding for a new collaboration and innovation hub at Deakin University, which will offer programs to help SMEs recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and become more digital savvy.
The Digital Innovation and SME Hub (DISH) will be located at the university’s Burwood campus in Melbourne, with the first construction phase for the repurposed space due to be completed by March 2022.
The DISH will focus on SMEs in manufacturing, health care and trades. Businesses that use the hub will be able to access “health checks” and support services from the university’s business, law and IT faculties, as well as partner organisations, to explore new products and markets and identify new sources of funding, cashflow and efficiency improvements.
The new space will include a live cyber defence centre and cyber testing and hacking lab; two co-innovation labs; an industry ‘makers room’; an advanced AI, robotics and automation lab; ‘sprint rooms’ for hacking problems; and an events space for tradeshows, industry forums and roundtables.
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The Victorian government announced its $2 million funding contribution, which will come from the Victorian Higher Education State Investment Find, on Wednesday. Deakin University will be contributing $3.5 million towards the project, and another $1 million will come from industry partners.
Deakin University said in a statement the project is expected to create 122 direct jobs by 2025, with an additional jobs expected to be created by the SMEs that work with the DISH.
Deakin University Vice-Chancellor Professor Iain Martin said the hub will utilise the university’s expertise in business, arts and health, artificial intelligence, machine learning and automation, cybersecurity, product development and commercialisation.
At the same time, the partnerships created between DISH and participating businesses are expected to also create on-the-job learning opportunities for Deakin students, and show them the value of working for SMEs when they graduate.
“This project is a great example of how universities, governments and the private sector can work together to provide end-to-end SME support which enhancing Victoria’s research capabilities,” said Martin.
“The DISH’s clear regional focus will ensure our local communities bounce back strongly after the significant challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.”