Humble beginnings, a prosperous future
When i3net was first proposed, heavy industry in the Illawarra was undergoing a long and challenging restructure in the face of global competition. While the region was shifting to a services-based economy, business leaders were not going to let a proud history of mining and manufacturing wither.
The formation of i3net in 2002 was a way to inspire industry innovation, to bring together the people and ideas that would foster new products, markets, and demonstrate that the Illawarra was a place with a culture of innovation where skilled people made high-value products.
Over the past 18 years, business, community, and government have backed the non-profit, helping i3net become the leading network for driving innovation and improving sustainability for industry-based companies. This has been primarily due to long-term partners who understood the need and the power of a network as a vehicle for fostering relationships and strengthening Illawarra business capabilities.
Vision for the future
From a proposal at a meeting of the Australian Industry Group Illawarra Committee, i3net is born, formed out of what was the Illawarra Manufacturing/Engineering Cluster/Network. A vision and strategy were created, to strengthen the manufacturing/engineering industry in the region and tackling unemployment. A steering committee was formed in 2002, and funding for project activities secured from federal government, state government and regional bodies. New members are added, and i3net begins building its operations and gets to work, undertaking a capability analysis of the region.
A strong foundation is laid, and i3net continues to add members and bring people together from across industry. In 2008, a new Board of Directors was elected, and Dr Sander Kroes of Five Ys is elected Chair. The network continues to provide a place for sharing knowledge and developing relationships among the region’s innovative businesses.
Striving for excellence
The i3net membership base is growing, and the future is looking bright. A strong focus is on business development and training opportunities that support i3net’s pitch for Illawarra as a manufacturing and engineering region of excellence. A new board is elected with Rod Brown, of Ringway Control and Automation, elected Chair. Dr Sander Kroes is Deputy Chair. New board members include representatives from state and local government. 2013: Emilio Salucci, of Transfield Services, is elected the new Chair of i3net. The board’s five-year plan focuses on expanding the membership base to include more diverse industry representation, as well as developing relationships with similar networks in other regions to leverage market opportunities. 2014: After six years in the role, i3net Chief Executive Sandy Haig is farewelled. During her tenure, the network has grown from 12 members to more than 80, who with i3net support, has brought more than $500 million worth of projects to the region. Long-time member Tony Green is appointed i3net Chief Executive.
2017: Bianca Perry becomes i3net’s new Chief Executive. With her skills and experience in strategic marketing, communication and digital media, coupled with strong stakeholder engagement capabilities, the network can build its’ profile, brand and communications. 2018: Industrial disruption and opportunities are the focus of many of the networks talks, with an industry 4.0 workshop highlighting automation and the role of technology in industry. Energy is a hot topic, with a presentation from Snowy Hydro helping show how innovative local businesses can play critical roles in national infrastructure projects.
Strength and resilience
2019: The behind-the-scenes stakeholder engagement continues, with i3net continually meeting with all levels of government to press home the importance and value of industry in the Illawarra. These efforts allow members to make new and meaningful connections that lead to business opportunities. Robert Donsante steps down from his board position. He was a member from 2015 and held roles as treasure and Deputy Chair. 2020: The start of 2020 was undoubtedly filled with unprecedented challenges—first the devastating bushfires, and then health crisis facing the globe. I3net continues to find ways to bring members together and develop opportunities for the region. A new board and new faces. The 2020 i3net board: Emilio Salucci (Chair), Jim Allan (new in 2020), David Bridge (Deputy-Chair), Zahra Shahbazian, Dan Henricson, Yvonne Walker, David Apolo (Treasurer), Bianca Perry, John Zagame, and Mark Grimson.
Our Plan for the Future
i3net never rests in its objective to be a vehicle to find and deliver innovative ideas and opportunities for Illawarra businesses. The role of the network is to inspire: to fuel thinking and support businesses in developing the relationships, skills, and capabilities needed to exploit future opportunities.
A clean-fuel future, made in Wollongong
While electric vehicles get most of the attention, hydrogen fuel is beginning to gain ground as a next-generation renewable energy source, and around the world, hydrogen networks are reaching commercialisation stage. Hydrogen is already available from industrial gas providers in the US and Europe, where hydrogen-powered bus fleets are operating in some places.
Coregas has operated the largest merchant hydrogen plant in Australia at Port Kembla since 1986, and Energy Australia has flagged it will select a turbine for the expansion that will have the capacity to use blended hydrogen/gas.
Port Kembla could well become a hydrogen production and export hub, making it attractive for the development and manufacture of hydrogen storage and fuel cells.
This is an opportunity the Illawarra can’t miss out on.
How can you get involved?
Become a member of i3net and access a growing and powerful network for business growth and development. Access the power of the network.