Tasmanian businesses have an opportunity to innovate and diversify, an expert says, after the Federal Government closed an $8 million funding round for businesses in the state.
The Tasmanian Innovation and Investment Fund, which aims to boost local employment by backing innovative business ideas, saw more than 100 businesses apply for assistance.
The fund attracted interest from across the state, including 50 applications from the north, 32 from the south and a further 32 from the northwest.
Grant applications are currently being assessed by an independent panel including representatives from the Tasmanian Department of Economic Development and AusIndustry.
To be eligible, project proposals must have at least a dollar-for-dollar co-investment from the proponent. It’s believed the successful grant applicants will be announced in the coming months.
The fund is part of a $120 million package, announced last August, to support regional development projects under the Tasmanian Forests Intergovernmental Agreement.
According to Chris Evans, acting Minister for Industry and Innovation, the funding is designed to help Tasmanian businesses adapt to the restructuring of the state’s forestry sector.
Simon Crean, Minister for Regional Australia, Regional Development and Local Government, says applications have been received from agribusinesses, food producers, niche manufacturers and tourism operators.
“The fund represents an exciting time for Tasmania as it looks to diversity its economy to meet the challenges of the future,” Crean said in a statement.
According Dr Polly McGee, a senior lecturer in commercialisation and entrepreneurship at the University of Tasmania, Tasmanian businesses are better positioned than they think.
“One great advantage that we should be able to capitalise on is the NBN – businesses should take advantage of the first rollout [being] here,” she says.
“Our location isn’t a detriment to being able to work globally. We’ve got a good technology and staffing stream here – the tech industry has a real opportunity to grow.”
“It’s not a bad place to set up because it’s relatively cheap, and it’s also a good place to trial markets.”
With regard to the tourism and food sectors, McGee says many businesses are already starting to take advantage of Tasmania’s growing reputation for niche food brands, agriculture and wine.
“There are tourism opportunities and global distributional opportunities,” she says.
“Some businesses are using social media and online tools for distribution purposes, so they’re able to take their products to a big audience – [things like] meats, olive oil, cider and whisky.”
“The continual expansion in science, because of Tasmania’s specific marine environment, means businesses that service those industries also have an opportunity for expansion.”
Polly says rather than lamenting on the state of the global economy, businesses should look for opportunities to innovate.
“With this fund, the advantage is for those companies in those regions [affected by changes within the forestry sector],” she says.
“Businesses that can see the capacity of people who have been working in forestry will come up with innovative ways to grow their business.”