Entrepreneurs tackle ‘problems worth solving’ in Greater Western Sydney

James Arvanitakis with students and staff from The Academy

Professor James Arvanitakis, centre, leads The Academy at UWS

Some of the most pressing issues facing people who live, work, and study in Greater Western Sydney will be tackled by teams representing students, entrepreneurs and the start-up community, using PwC's 'Open Innovation' model in partnership with the University of Western Sydney.

Over two days - 6 and 7 September 2014 - the teams will pitch solutions to issues including access to healthy, affordable, and sustainable food; employment and productivity in the health sector; the availability of co-working and teleworking spaces; and making the delivery of public and private services more effective by establishing an up-to-date, open database of address information.

Following the event successful bidders will undertake a 12-week acceleration program and collaborate with PwC's startup and venture experts to develop prototypes. The teams will work closely with potential investors and customers from government and business to ensure the solutions are commercially viable.

The PwC Open Innovation model has been successfully piloted in Sydney, Newcastle and Queensland where it was used to develop solutions ranging from real-time public transport apps, to enhancing the effectiveness of graffiti removal programmes.

Trent Lund, PwC Lead Partner, Innovation & Ventures, says: "There's no shortage of ideas, people or organisations that want to solve some of the important issues confronting our communities.

"What we've found is that Open Innovation is the process through which all of this energy, expertise and goodwill can be harnessed to create effective and long-lasting solutions to these 'problems worth solving'."

Professor James Arvanitakis, Head of The Academy at the University of Western Sydney, says the UWS students are well prepared for innovative problem solving and 'big-sky' thinking.

"Partnering with PwC in the Open Innovation program is part of the University's move to build a broader, more innovative curriculum that prepares students for a rapidly changing world and a time of disruption. Rather than being threatened by the pace of change, we focus on building entrepreneurial skills across different disciplines to seek opportunities.

"This is not an abstract program, it is about our students working with industry to confront real life challenges and we look forward to seeing the outcomes," says Professor Arvanitakis.

The event will be hosted by UWS and opened by Penrith MP the Hon. Stuart Ayres, Minister for Police and Emergency Services, Minister for Sport and Recreation and Minister Assisting the Premier on Western Sydney.

The four problems were identified by PwC and UWS in conjunction with the NSW Government and program partners Google and Cisco:

Improving access to co-working and teleworking spaces

Residents in Greater Western Sydney who work in the Sydney CBD can spend up to three hours commuting each day. A study by the Institute for Sustainable Futures found that removing the need for workers who live near Liverpool, Blacktown and Penrith to commute the city could have combined benefits to taxpayers and workers themselves of $55.7 million annually.

"For a long time, we have understood the business relevant benefits of teleworking such as increased productivity, helping the environment and improved job satisfaction," says Tim Fawcett, general manager of Corporate and Government Affairs, Cisco Australia and New Zealand. "Yet there is still much to be done to increase the percentage of Australian employees having a telework arrangement with their employers. Thus, we are pleased to be supporting PwC's 'Open Innovation' model and eager to hear the fresh perspectives and approaches proposed by the participating teams."

Increasing the uptake of a healthy, affordable, and sustainable diet

Despite greater access to food nutrition information, rising public awareness about the impact of poor diets, and increasing interest in locally-sourced produce, the concept of sustainable eating has not gained traction beyond a niche segment.

Supporting small to medium businesses (SMBs) in the health sector

According to PwC, it can be difficult for SMBs to focus on growth because of the time involved in administration and issues like cash-flow and compliance management. An integrated and effective business support model could help these businesses grow and provide better service and employment opportunities.

Establishing an up-to-date, open database of address information

Many public and private sector organisations including Australia Post, NBN Co, and the Australian Electoral Commission rely on having accurate and accessible address information when planning how to deliver their services. This information is currently held by multiple agencies, can be costly to maintain, and isn't always accurate. An opportunity exists for Government to integrate these open and rich datasets which could be used to more efficiently plan and deliver important services and ensure Government policy decisions are evidence based.


5 September 2014

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