Building an SME support ecosystem in Papua New Guinea


Using our Studio and Lab methodology to understand the existing ecosystem for SME support and investment in Papua New Guinea we helped a development funder think about the catalytic role of the aid dollar in leveraging private capital.
Papua New Guinea
Watch this to learn more about Fusion.


Papua New Guinea (PNG) is a market bursting with untapped potential. However, PNG’s nascent human capital has no way of accessing the financial capital it needs to grow and scale. At the same time, the explosion of financial capital emerging through the resource boom and superannuation reform continually struggle to find solid investment opportunities within PNG. 

Fusion uses multiple levers for change to support the growth of Small to Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in PNG. It is uniquely focussed on building capacity and investment readiness of SMEs and deliberately does not replicate anything that already exists in the ecosystem. Fusion partners with existing incubators and capacity building programs to build investment readiness. Fusion works with corporates seeking to strengthen SMEs in their supply chains and with investors looking to increase SME contribution to PNG’s GDP.

Fusion will be the missing link that opens up a range of pathways to growth for SMEs in PNG. 


We used a design-led approach to conceptualise an ecosystem that will build the capacity of SMEs in PNG

Over an 18-month period we were extensively in country with stakeholders across the ecosystem to test out initial support for SMEs, understand the landscape and constraints, and build relationships with investors and corporate partners. We sought to align the desired outcomes of both the Australian and PNG governments with the needs of local SMEs in a way that unlocked local investment dollars and created development outcomes for PNG.

Following the initial engagement, a Concept Paper and Pilot Framework was prepared for the Funder outlining the opportunities, challenges and proposed pilot programs to test in the market. As a result, Tech Lab PNG was launched to pilot capacity building tech enabled businesses, working closely with participants on both the social and financial value being created by their businesses. In parallel to the pilot, we continued to work with investors and corporate partners to build confidence in the potential of the SME market and prepared a report on the Investment Landscape. We also designed and developed the governance frameworks for Fusion as a PNG owned and run organisation and worked with the Funders to develop a robust Impact Management Framework for Fusion.

By the end of 2019, we had prepared a detailed blueprint for Fusion’s growth and development.


This project demonstrated the critical role that development funders can play to catalyse change if they use their funding in a way that unlocks private capital to contribute to development outcomes. 

While significant changes within the funder and the ongoing effects of COVID-19 ultimately led to Fusion being paused, the groundwork, insights and relationships built have identified a compelling way forward for the funder, investors in PNG, and the SMEs who require support to continue to play their critical role in improving the lives of all Papua New Guineans.


‘How will promising… business models get to later stages where they become investable without support earlier on in their journey? We call this critical gap in support the ‘Pioneer Gap’, and we believe that this is a key factor constraining the availability of investment opportunities for impact investors. Unless we address this pioneer gap, much impact capital will continue to sit on the sidelines or be deployed into sub-optimal opportunities for impact, and fail to achieve its potential in driving powerful new market-based solutions…’

From Blueprint to Scale: The Case for Philanthropy in Impact Investing.

Harvey Koh, Ashish Karamchandani and Robert Katz, April 2012.



Over 260 engagements with key stakeholders (SMEs, investors, private sector, PNG Government and Australian High Commission)


Provision to the Australian High Commission of a detailed design and plan to use their funding in a more catalytic way to leverage private capital to achieve development outcomes


Development of an Impact Management Framework connecting SME support in PNG with international best practice.

“The ability to sit in the room with the wealth of information that we’ve had access to has been incredible and life changing to our business

 David ValentineCo-founder Refer Tech. 


“Development of the SME sector is the obvious future for Papua New Guinea but SME’s aren’t accessing the investment capital they need because they don’t yet speak investors language and need support to unlock their ideas and businesses.”

 David Toua – General Manager Corporate Affairs – Steamships

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