Regional Development Minister visits Mandurah’s Make Place for funding announcement

West Australian Regional Development Minister Alannah MacTiernan has announce a $4.5 million funding commitment to regional innovation. 

Addressing business leaders and innovators at Mandurah’s Make Place on Thursday, Ms MacTiernan said the funding would help foster entrepreneurship and spark job creation, talent and skills development in regional WA.

She was proud to announce a regional innovation summit would be held in Bunbury on November 23. 

The summit will help guide the investment, which is the regional component of the Labor government’s New Industries Fund, created to help drive emerging business in the startup and gaming sector. 

Ms MacTiernan revealed the state government's vision to build and develop similar innovation hubs, like Make Place, that support local businesses. 

“The places we’re looking at are Broome, Port Hedland, Newman, Karratha, Geralton, Bunbury, Busselton, Margaret River, Albany, Kalgoorlie,” Ms MacTiernan said. 

“It’s not just about the place I think quite often we make the mistake that it’s just about the building and having lots of people together. It’s more than that. 

“It's about us getting everyone together, exchanging ideas and then seeing what emerges from it. 

“It’s not, as I say, a group of hipsters doing pizza ordering apps. It really is also about outreach into many traditional businesses and saying… ‘this is what the digital age can offer you in terms of re-visioning your marketing, re-visioning your manufacturing, re-visioning your product design’. 

“It’s allowing those people who have an interest in doing something different and new and giving them an opportunity and then seeing how that expands out to strengthen the economy.  

“There’s a lot of very good programs that are run in some places that are really designed to get existing business for example to be rethinking their business in the digital age.” 

She said the funding injection would bolster organisations that support emerging businesses across the next four years. 

“We’ve got this program over the next four years,” she said. 

“What we’re trying to do, at this point, is we’re trying to get those that are either established or in the process of becoming established to come to us and talk about what they believe works, what’s the really good thing, how would… state government funds add to it,” she said. 

Ms MacTiernan said while the state government had some idea of what the investment could create, it would be hard to measure exactly what the funding would deliver immediately. 

“We don’t have a precise set of metrics on this,” she said. 

“In two or three years time we’re more than happy to come back and say ‘this is what’s set up’ and then make some assessment of… what value it has delivered to the community.

“We’ve got to try. 

“I think a lot of this is very expository. We’re talking about new industries, we’re talking about putting aside this some of money to see what emerges.

“You’ve got to have some effort put into the creative responses… and seeing what emerges from it. 

“We have a vision of what the sorts of things are, we’ve seen what things have been done elsewhere but one thing we have learnt is that you’ve got to have… local champions. 

“We’ve got to have people that have their hear and soul into it to make it work.”

She said recently regional economies had been affected by external sources such as, changes in the resources sector.

“We have to be very conscious that the economy is changing that the digital infrastructure is going to be very transformative,” she said.

“We have to have a core of people that are given an opportunity to take advantage of it.” 

Make Place Mandurah could be a blueprint for other other location’s to base their innovative hubs off, however Ms MacTiernan said it wouldn’t be a one size fits all model. 

“Some of them… have been… set up on their own bat without any government assistance, some have had government assistance, so there’s different models,” she said. 

“We’re going to have a couple of people who’ve had lots of experience in other parts of Australia as well and so the whole idea is us not being to prescriptive about it.”

Make Place chief executive officer Rhys Williams thanked the minster for visiting the hub on Tuckey Street. 

“[Having the minster] in the region was an opportunity for us really to showcase the dynamic individuals working here,” Mr Williams said.