Prospering in regional NSW on the back of the ‘Ideas Boom’
It is commonly stated that innovation will be one of the keys that unlock Australia’s future success, competitiveness and productivity. In regional economies facing rapid structural change, like the Hunter Valley and Central West of NSW, innovation is central to economic planning.
The Australian Government has announced funding for new technologies and is planning to introduce new laws designed to assist start-up enterprises and promote innovation. So how do regionally based businesses, entrepreneurs and investors become involved and make the most of the ‘ideas boom’? From a legal perspective, we think, like many things, it is all about collaboration, preparation and seeking genuine expert advice early in the process.
In this article we summarise some of the fundamental legal and business “ground rules” to ensure participants in the ‘ideas boom’ protect and maximise the value of ideas.
1. Protect your intellectual property rights – Seek legal advice as early as possible in relation to an IP protection strategy that suits your needs. This is critical as once you begin to commercialise your idea you may have already published it, making it very difficult to protect any intellectual property (or ownership) rights (and, therefore, value) in that idea.
2. Commercialisation – One of the key barriers facing entrepreneurs is converting a good idea into a marketable product or service. It is as important to collaborate with other ‘like-minded’ entrepreneurs as it is to approach the right advisors at an early stage. We suggest establishing a network of people who can help move your ideas forward to augment the available government assistance.
3. Governing documents – Put in place appropriate ‘ground rules’ between you and your co-investors and collaborators.
Start with good non-disclosure and IP protection documentation then move early to a shareholders’ deed (companies), partnership deed (partnerships) or similar document that deals with issues such as the funding, management and direction of the business, as well as outlining the responsibilities and obligations of owners.
4. Basic house-keeping – Make sure you get some of the basics right as early as possible. Taking simple steps such as registering your business name and entering into contracts with key suppliers, customers or other important contacts will not only protect your interests throughout the development stages but will place your business in a better position to raise capital or to exit or sell the business at a later date. Playing “catch up” on these matters later can prove time-consuming and costly.
McCabes Newcastle has an excellent track record supporting regionally-based innovators and entrepreneurs to take an idea through the commercialisation process to market launch. You can read more about our experience and some of our case studies at www.mccabes.com.au/innovation. We think businesses and individual entrepreneurs located in regional areas have a number of distinct advantages over their city cousins. We welcome enquiries from entrepreneurs and innovators wishing to commercialise their ideas in manufacturing, mining, engineering, agriculture, food & beverage, bio-tech, technology and other fields.
 See, for example, Professor Kevin Hall, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation) (http://www.newcastle.edu.au/newsroom/featured-news/university-ofnewcastle-walks-the-walk-on-innovation,-says-minister-roberts).
 National Innovation and Science Agenda Report (http://www.innovation.gov.au/page/national-innovation-and-science-agenda-report).