Innovation Ecosystem

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The Hunter Innovation Ecosystem

Moving innovations from discovery and ideation through to commercialisation involves numerous actors, often including academic researchers, small businesses, the investor community, the corporate sector and industry. At one end of the spectrum, there is government investment in fundamental research and at the other, in the commercial marketplace, there is a much higher level of industry investment in direct product development.

In a world of increasing specialisation, businesses often need to build an ecosystem-wide value proposition that relies on collaboration with other actors in the innovation ecosystem to achieve synergies that can only be realised when the individual contributions of different actors are combined.

The Hunter innovation ecosystem is made up of many stakeholders, programs and actors across both private and public sectors that work together to support the growth of new companies, as well as help existing companies to innovate and grow. The ecosystem includes startups, SMEs, large companies, service providers, government support programs, funding, investment, universities and research organisations.

Hunter iF supports the Hunter innovation ecosystem in a range of ways including connecting businesses to education and research programs, developing skills for entrepreneurs and startups and by connecting industry and business to financial assistance made available through government programs and private funding opportunities.

An Innovation Ecosystem Project “Connecting Innovation to Opportunity”

The Hunter’s capacity to innovate is well documented and celebrated. Collaboration underpins its innovation system and continues to grow. Hunter iF connects members of the Ecosystem in a way that benefits all. By bringing together the resources available, we can more efficiently assist businesses at all stages of their innovation journey.

Many committed people and organisations have been working tirelessly to grow programs, capability and funding for innovation and entrepreneurship over the years, and recent collaborative activity by major players (such as NCC’s Smart City Program) is aligning to accelerate this, propelling the region into the next level of maturity. Now is the time to seize the opportunity to leverage and connect for critical mass, and to draw the innovation community together to drive a common vision and action.

By developing the innovation ecosystem, Hunter iF aims to:

  • Help to diversify and strengthen industry in the region;
  • Grow new businesses;
  • Strengthen current businesses;
  • Grow a new industry providing jobs for our people;
  • Attract new business and investment.


Hunter iF recognises entrepreneurs are a central part of the innovation ecosystem in the Hunter. Hunter iF assists entrepreneurs in a range of ways including with developing and refining skills in pitching a business concept, developing a go-to-market strategy and commercialisation activity for their ideas and innovations. Working in collaboration with government and private sector support programs, Hunter iF can provide support and give ideas the exposure they need to succeed by connecting new and innovative businesses to co-working office space, infrastructure, design and mentor support.

We aim to assist startups by connecting them to programs as well as giving them exposure through industry networks.

If you are an investor interested in startups or you have an idea or design that you think is worthy of attention, explore the resources below to see how we can help you get connected.


A sophisticated support network of infrastructure, professional services and peak body networks have developed in the Hunter in recognition of innovation as being pivotal to the region’s growth, prosperity and sustainability.


The Hunter is Australia’s largest regional economy and is the largest regional contributor to NSW’s gross domestic product. Valued at over $40 billion, the Hunter region drives just under 30% of regional NSW’s total economic output and has approximately 322,000 jobs. The region prospers economically and socially and is supported by a highly professional and skilled workforce and strong research.

The economy in the Hunter region is increasingly diversified, with strong growth occurring in health care, social assistance, accommodation, food and professional services. This growth demonstrates the region is well placed to benefit from the macro trends affecting the Australian economy, such as the ageing population and greater exposure to the global economy.


There are a number of programs available for startups and SMEs in the Hunter that can assist businesses along their innovation journey. The University of Newcastle’s dedicated innovation and research centres, including flagship entities such as the Hunter Medical Research Institute (HMRI), Port Stephens Fisheries Institute and the Newcastle Institute for Energy and Resources (NIER), provide opportunities to create and exploit world class knowledge and ideas. Similarly, the CSIRO’s Energy Centre has cemented the Hunter as a leader in clean energy technology innovation.

Hunter TAFE is Australia’s largest regional vocational provider and has forged innovative partnerships to provide skills training to support business, industry and the community.


Across a number of research and education organisations there are workshops available for information ranging from branding and marketing advice to legal and financial information. Training programs have been designed to meet the needs of businesses at various stages of their innovation journey and there are courses available for startups, scaleups, investors and mentors.

There are also numerous research-focused accelerated education programs that can assist with alternative academic pathways and recognition to provide more flexibility and accessibility for startup organisations.

Open Innovation programs encourage R&D in companies, connecting industry with research through a range of activities and connecting ideas to supply chains and individuals. These programs offer a range of services tailored to the requirements of businesses regardless of their size. They can assist with anything from the development of a minimum viable product (MVP) through to organisational structure advice.


Hunter iF connects businesses to government support initiatives and funding programs that can assist new and innovative businesses to realise their economic potential faster than they otherwise would. This may include providing information on grant opportunities for businesses and industry or information about programs that support entrepreneurial activity and that contributes to the overall support and development of the innovation ecosystem.


There is a range of government grants available to support the development of new and innovative businesses in the Hunter region.

Business innovation often requires an up-front investment of resources to develop new ideas, with a view to future profits. For businesses that are unable to fund their own ideas at this early stage, a range of government grants and financial assistance is available to support innovation. These programs are often designed to be accessed throughout different stages of the business lifecycle.