The nimble, high-tech start-ups that will one day operate from the University of Wollongong's business incubator are almost the antithesis of the bulky, industrial environment of Port Kembla port.
Which is why, according to the university's Vice-Chancellor Paul Wellings, it is so fitting the iAccelerate building is the first of 20 projects funded from the port's privatisation to get under way.
On Thursday, Professor Wellings joined politicians and academics to turn the first soil on the building's Innovation Campus site, labelling it a "landmark project" that would help counter the decline of the Illawarra's traditional manufacturing sectors.
"This is a very big step-change for the region in trying to create new industries and new jobs," he said.
"We know the Illawarra is going through a radical economic transition ... and trying to find a point of difference where new industries and jobs will arise is a really important issue for all of us in the community."
Prof Wellings said the $16.5 million in government funds had helped construction of the building - which would have been funded from the university's capital projects budget - begin much sooner than planned.
"The [fund] has helped crystallise this at a rate we just couldn't have imagined," he said.
The three-storey building was due to be complete in about 18 months, and would eventually house up to 280 entrepreneurs and 500 staff at any time, he said.
In the meantime, 20 entrepreneurs will work from temporary offices, also located at the Innovation Campus, and the program has already helped 25 start-up businesses get off the ground.
Illawarra Minister John Ajaka said he expected other projects funded from the port lease to begin construction in the next few months.
"Most of them are now being finalised from a contract point of view, so I would expect to see more sod-turning to occur very soon," he said.