Speaking to Defence Connect, Peter Webster, executive director of ICN NSW, said the organisation specialises in connecting businesses with opportunities, but luring in the prime contractors or 'big spenders' is often the hardest part of the job.
"The challenge is always finding the person that has the big spend, and that is willing to open those opportunities up," explained Webster.
"We've got an extensive database and web portal, and because that's a public face, a lot of people think we're an IT-driven industry. And that it's a web-based type service. Now that's a part of that, but it's really relationship-building."
Given the secretive nature of defence, Webster said building trust with large corporations is another challenge the organisation faces.
"We need to be able to develop a good, trusting relationship with buyers, so that they will trust us with their inquiries," said Webster.
"Quite often, there are very confidential pieces of information relating to IP or project objectives, or it could be to strategy that someone has within a bid team, so we have to have their confidence to be able to work with them on that. And also, their confidence that we're not going to waste their time. So when we can develop that relationship, we then come up with a whole swag of ... very attractive opportunities for local industry."
Unsurprisingly, the interest from Australian SMEs in the network is strong, with the ICN acting as the conduit between the prime and SMEs looking to break into a supply chain.
"And once we've got that [relationship], it's very easy then to make that relationship with local suppliers, local manufacturers [and] contractors, particularly SMEs, because they're looking for that work, and ... they then want to talk to us," explained Webster.
"But, of course, the ultimate aim is to forge the relationship between those suppliers, those SMEs and those large buyers. So we come in between, but we've got to have that trust and build that relationship, so we can get those opportunities and pass them on."