Swinburne has hosted representatives from the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Serbia and Slovakia for the Central European Business Forum as part of Victoria’s Small Business Festival.
Organised by Swinburne and the Hungarian Consulate Melbourne, around 120 people attended the event, which was themed around innovation as a means to connect Victorian businesses to Central and Eastern European markets.
In a pre-event workshop, Swinburne’s Dr Joseph Voros talked of future opportunities and futurist thinking.
In opening the forum, Acting Director of Collaboration and Partnerships at Swinburne, Janine Shearer, introduced the university’s industry engagement opportunities for Victorian small to medium enterprises (SMEs).
Following on from Ms Shearer, Head of the Hungarian Consulate in Melbourne, Peter Bakonyi, talked about the growing interest in the Central European Business Forum over the past three years.
Ms Rita Vago introduced an exhibition of Hungarian innovations and products.
Keynote speaker from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Mr Kevin Magee, said the event complimented Australia's already extensive political and diplomatic engagement with Central and Eastern Europe and filled a gap by promoting Australian business' engagement with Central and Eastern Europe.
Expert speaker Mr Tim Carroll from Austrade identified the avenues of innovation and export engagement open to Victorian businesses, highlighting, in particular, Austrade’s landing pad initiative.
A panel discussion followed moderated by Professor Bruce Wilson from RMIT EU Centre exploring the opportunities and support for innovation in Central and Eastern Europe. The panel members put specific details of innovation infrastructure, institutions and business opportunities forward for their respective countries.
Panel members were:
- Mr Vojtech Helikar – Executive Director for Australian and New Zealand Operations, CzechTrade Sydney
- Ms Rita Vago – Trade and Investment Commissioner, Hungarian Consulate, Melbourne
- Mr Mirek Zarnowski – President, Polish Chamber of Commerce Australia
- Ms Ramona Martinovici – CAESAR Foundation, Romania
- Mr Stanislav Savic – President, Australian Serbian Chamber of Commerce
- Ms Eugenia Mocnay – Honorary Consul for the Slovak Republic in Victoria
In conclusion, Victorian parliamentarian Frank McGuire, speaking for Minister for Small Business Innovation and Trade, Philip Dalidakis, provided a detailed outline of the vibrant and growing exchange between Victoria and Central and Eastern European countries, and emphasised the growing opportunities that Australia’s regional development presents for Victorian SMEs as well as foreign businesses.
Swinburne’s Dr Áron Perényi provided a recap of the evening, and emphasised the importance of the forthcoming Australia-EU Free Trade Agreement, as well as the networking opportunity provided by the fourth Central European Business Forum.
The forum hosted the Smart Hungary exhibition showcasing some of the great Hungarian inventions collected by the Hungarian National Research, Development and Innovation Office and sponsored by the Science Diplomacy Department of the Hungarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
The event was sponsored by:
- Peak Equities,
- Australia Wide International Education
- Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources Victoria
- IMARC Melbourne
- Qatar Airways
- Buccheri Group
- Swinburne Business School
- Hungarian Consular Office in Melbourne
Volunteers from the Swinburne Business Without Borders student group contributed to the smooth running of the event.