This month I had the pleasure of attending Croaker Oars hosted by the Croaker family . For well over 50 years Croker Oars have crafted premium still water oars for the rowing community. They continue to innovate in the sport of rowing, always searching for new and improved technology to create quality products for rowers to perform at their absolute best. The pink sleeve that they have used for many years now has become an international icon, recognisable from afar and it was insightful to hear of how it came about.
It was at this event where I was involved in a conversation with representatives from Government, Training providers, Local Council and Consultants around the need for collaboration, networking, innovation hubs and skills points.
Those few that represented industry found the conversation among them interesting and had many questions. It was apparent however, that for all good intentions it seems each department, RTO, School etc is still working in their own silo’s they appear a little disjointed and are not working collaboratively with each other at all. So while it is apparent there is much to be done and the buzz words are out there, what does this actually mean for industry and in particular regional industry, when those that service or support us are not united.
Manufacturers face severe competition mainly from the high Australian dollar eroding both export and domestic markets. However we are no longer in decline and for the majority, business has turned a corner and we are busier than we have been for some time. Over the last 7 years IMNC directors and more broadly the regional industry have been working together to solve operational issues, building an understanding of the capability we have within our own region and leveraging from each other. We have informally begun sharing resources, collaborating on projects and collectively undertaken skill’s training that is not readily available in our region using the mentality of bringing what we need to us.
This has been a huge undertaking without a paid resource, however we have managed it and continue to drive forward and build on the foundations we have set.
IMNC and other regional industries are already working collaboratively with each other.
So where to from here?
Steve Zanon the man behind the health and manufacturing industries cluster in Geelong, outlines what appears a complex conversation in very simple terms.
Each region must recognise that it starts with a different set of assets (strengths) and its own unique suite of social issues (weaknesses). Most regions rely on simply duplicating what others are doing rather than actively developing something recognisable as exclusive, truly value-adding and therefore able to generate high margins.
Regions and especially regional areas, need to find their own ‘market niches’ and increase efforts to absorb new knowledge targeted at specific economic activities .
In other words, they have to bet on a ‘smart growth’ strategy, not on an ‘Any growth’ strategy.
What does this mean for the regional areas such as the Mid North Coast and the manufacturing industry ?
The idea is to generate a recognisable unique brand that each innovative region is known for irrespective of whether they are driven more by manufacturing, new technologies, traditional services, service innovation, or any combination.
Diversification, better use of available resources and placing greater emphasis on local innovation in more niche areas, will build strength, growth and future viability. These “smart specialisations can be around sectors such as defence, agriculture, aerospace, marine, health etc. What the smart specialisation strategy does is decreases excessive duplication, decreases uniformity and inspires imagination and vision setting innovation priorities across the regions and allowing each region to be a key contributor to the future of the Australian economy.
This is exciting and something IMNC have been looking at for the last few years.
In 2018 we will continue to lead the industry and the region towards this goal and begin regional conversation around building this strategy.