LAUNCESTON’S historic Macquarie House will be revamped as part of a plan to create an innovation hub for start-up companies in the city centre.
Two leading-edge Entrepreneurship and Incubator Hubs are planned for Tasmania, to create space for fledgling companies, freelancers and students to work and receive hands-on mentoring and training.
The state government will invest $500,000 in the two projects – one slated for Macquarie House, and the other in Hobart’s iconic Mercury building.
Other stakeholders include the University of Tasmania, TasTAFE, the City of Launceston, Foundry, the office of the Co-ordinator-General and Startup Tasmania.
Information Technology and Innovation Minister Michael Ferguson said fostering Tasmanian entrepreneurs would provide an opportunity to create higher value jobs in Tasmania.
‘‘The goal here is economic growth, and helping to create an ecosystem that means Tasmanians with great ideas and great businesses don’t need to leave the island,’’ he said.
‘‘We want to take away a reason leave Tasmania, and I believe that that’s what the [Entrepreneurship and Incubator] hubs offer us the opportunity to deliver.’’
The federal government has previously allocated $3 million to refurbish the heritage-listed Macquarie House.
There are also plans to build a glazed atrium at the rear of the structure.
Startup Tasmania president James Riggall said he believed the development was essential for Launceston.
‘‘We talk a lot about the jobs of the future and where they’re going to come from, we talk about educating kids for jobs that don’t exist yet, it’s spaces like this and infrastructure like this that enable kids to have the best possible chance of success,’’ he said.
‘‘It’s inspiring young people in Launceston and anyone who might like to start a business to actually give it a go, but then give them the support they need to have the best possible chance of success.’’
The University of Tasmania plans to employ two entrepreneurship experts to operate out of the Tasmanian School of Business and Economics and mentor students interested in exploring business opportunities.
UTAS will also offer specific courses and programs in addition to existing degrees.
UTAS deputy research vice-chancellor Brigid Heywood said there was already a demand for innovation support at the university.
‘‘This is an opportunity to build on something that’s already germinating within our community,’’ she said.
‘‘There’s a lot of underground and casual activity already there, the question is are they getting the right kind of support to give them the momentum they both deserve and need?’’
The development application is expected to go to council within the next few months, for a planned opening time of early 2017.