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Belt and Road fuels Northern Territory's innovation hub in Australia

By Yang Yang | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2018-08-06 09:55

Harley Paroulakis, founder and chief executive of Darwin Innovation Hub in Northern Territory, Australia. [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]

In Australia, the Northern Territory's Darwin Innovation Hub is taking an active role in sharing the benefits of China's Belt and Road Initiative, said Harley Paroulakis, the hub's founder and chief executive.

"We would like to attract one Chinese innovation company to a Northern Territory industry sector in the next 12 months. We are planning to visit China and work with Austrade to find a suitable Chinese innovation company," Paroulakis said.

Austrade is the Australian Trade and Investment Commission, which helps companies connect to overseas markets, among other duties.

Paroulakis and his team members have had preliminary meetings with groups like the Shandong Investment Group venture capital team and Nanjing Development Zone.

Innovation hub is designed to help start-ups capitalize on their ideas. [Photo / darwininnovationhub.com.au]

To establish the right networks in China to find the right and most relevant Chinese company for the Northern Territory is the most challenging part of this project, which takes time, Paroulakis said.

However, China's Belt and Road Initiative gives him great confidence and a lot of assistance to build an Asia-Pacific ecosystem linking Darwin and Northern Territory industry to the region, especially with China.

The Belt and Road Initiative can certainly help build confidence and direction in our deal flow between China and North Australia and help the innovation hub work with the right business in China, Paroulakis said.

Meanwhile, the innovation hub also will back a Northern Territory innovation company to set up in China by developing partnerships with Chinese companies in the innovation and investment sectors, potentially via a parallel venture capital funding agreement that focuses on Belt and Road innovation investments between China and Australia, according to Paroulakis.

"We plan to visit China and meet with companies with technologies in solar, agricultural tech, mining tech and other industries relevant to the Northern Territory. We want to attract one company in the next 12 months to China and one to Australia consistent with the BRI," Paroulakis said.

People hold businesses meeting at the Darwin Innovation Hub. [Photo / business.nt.gov.au]

DIH has raised the first venture capital fund in the Northern Territory and also established the first incubator in partnership with the Northern Territory government and Charles Darwin University, which involved winning a national tender, with the Australian Government getting the whole country to compete for grand funding for the Incubator Support Program. It was a historical first for the Northern Territory to won it, said Paroulakis.

The Northern Territory is a unique place to take advantage of China's Belt and Road Initiative to deepen China-Australian relations, as the Oceania region is the "natural extension" of the Maritime Silk Road, said Cheng Jingye, the Chinese ambassador to Australia, in mid-July at a high-level conference on the Belt and Road Initiative in Australia, as reported by NT News.

Active interactions between Chinese and Australian businesses would lead to further exploration of possible cooperation between China and Australia under the Belt and Road framework, as local cooperation is an integral part and important basis of China-Australia relations, Cheng said, according to the report.

The Darwin Innovation Hub aims at building an Asia-Pacific ecosystem linking Darwin and Northern Territory industry to the region, especially with China, and it would be a privilege to be part of the process in which China is becoming a world leader and standard setter of innovation in the world, Paroulakis said.

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