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Australia Post could invest $100 million in the next few years in emerging local ecommerce businesses as part of efforts to drive innovation in digital services for its customers.
Today, the group announced a $1 million, three-year investment into a new partnership with the University of Melbourne around its Melbourne Accelerator Program (MAP), the first of several planned to accelerate ecommerce ideas in Australia. The partnership sees Australia Post co-locate its accelerator efforts at the educational institution’s Lab-14 premises.
Australia Post managing director and CEO, Ahmed Favour, said it will invest an initial $20m into emerging ecommerce businesses under the new accelerator program, with a particular focus on regional centres.
The University of Melbourne is just the first of many planned with accelerators across the country.
“We will work with our people, our customers, the community and our partners to identify new opportunities and emerging, disruptive ecommerce businesses that we can accelerate,” he said.
“We will use the $20m capital fund, which with the success I expect could grow to more than $200m over coming years, to directly invest in great ecommerce businesses with ideas that will improve the lives of our customers.”
The new deal with University of Melbourne covers two new places for ecommerce businesses in the MAP Startup Accelerator, each supported by $20,000 in funding, office space, mentoring and connections to local and international networks. There is also a $20,000 annual scholarship to the Wade Institute for Entrepreneurship up for grabs, as well as three specific outreach programs targeting regional and rural areas, women and social entrepreneurs.
University of Melbourne vice-chancellor and professor, Glyn Davis, said universities aren’t just there to educate future generations, they’re also a “production line of ideas for new entrepreneurs and new businesses”.
“Harnessing the current mood around Australia’s innovation agenda is important, and this investment will go a long way to ensuring that startup cultures like those at MAP continue to have a prominent role at the university,” he said.
“This is an investment in the future of entrepreneurship skills development at the University of Melbourne, and will add to our larger push to expand the innovation ecosystem across the university and in this city.”
Fahour pointed to Australia Post’s ‘GoDigi’ program, which seeks to build digital literacy, and its ‘Go&Grow’ online seminars for regional small businesses, as other examples of how the group is striving to encourage digital engagement and innovation.
Australia Post also plans to launch a pilot of ‘The Hive’ in Geelong, Victoria, working with the community to offer meeting spaces, IT support and business coaching to local startups and micro-businesses, he said.
More widely, the organisation has tapped into techniques such as hackathons as a way of driving innovation, and recently worked with teams of university students to generate new ideas. Internally, Australia Post also runs an innovation champions program to recognise innovative thinking across its staff base.