HUNTERNET will up the ante in collaboration this year, joining forces with the region’s leading organisations to drive innovation in manufacturing.
Chief executive Tony Cade said the peak industry co-operative will seek to partner closely with CSIRO and the University of Newcastle on various programs that would commercialise the capabilities of manufacturers.
“We are looking at where we can maximise regional benefits through collaborational projects,” he said, adding that HunterNet’s focus remained on energy and resources and infrastructure and asset management.
Formed in 1991 to unite and drive innovation among small and medium enterprises hit by the winding down of steel production, HunterNet today has about 200 members in the Hunter and Central Coast.
It recently moved its headquarters to accountancy firm PKF, based at Mark Richard’s former surf store in Hunter Street.
“It makes sense to be in the west end of the CBD, which is continuing to transform with plenty of development activity,” Mr Cade said.
PKF managing director Steve Meyn said it had been an active member of HunterNet and the move would create opportunities for both organisations.
HunterNet’s 2015 member survey found that only four per cent of firms are exporting, however a third hope to switch industries within five years and many are eyeing Asian markets.
Mr Cade said the “relatively low” export result was countered by the fact 51 per cent of companies say they want to take part in the HunterNet/Austrade Asian Business Engagement program.
HunterNet is seeking more funding for the program, designed to harness commercial opportunities in Asia, where HunterNet is actively targeting new business windows for its members.
Mr Cade said new funding would allow it to train manufacturers to fully leverage opportunities arising from free trade agreements in China, Japan and South Korea.
The new Future Leaders program, which teams young and veteran business leaders to push innovation, will continue this year.