On 17 September 2013, Minister Barr MLA, ACT Minister for Economic Development, presented an implementation report on the ACT Government's Business Development Strategy:
Today I would like to take the opportunity to update the community on the Government’s strategy to promote innovation and the creation of jobs in the ACT. Just over 12 months ago I launched ‘Growth, Diversification and Jobs: A Business Development Strategy for the ACT’.
The strategy outlines a vision for a growing Canberra economy building on a commitment to private sector growth and jobs that is the hallmark of ACT Labor Governments.
The Gallagher Government is committed to ensuring our economy continues to grow, and continues to provide jobs.
Our private sector is growing, becoming more diverse, and creating a wider range of knowledge-intensive jobs.
The ACT Government intends to support this growth by providing the right environment in which businesses can invest, employ and innovate.
We are doing this through the Business Development Strategy.
In the 21st century, growth in modern industrialised economies and regions, such as the ACT, will come not from smokestacks and mines, but from high-tech, knowledge-intensive businesses.
The good news is that the ACT has a strong foundation in this area – a strong private sector – on which to build.
What the Business Development Strategy does is provide the right support, to capitalise on the strong foundations we have.
The Strategy is already helping to create the right investment environment, and create the right settings to encourage the private sector to grow and create jobs.
The Strategy outlines a responsible, innovative and collaborative approach to growing the economy.
It rejects the 1990s ‘cargo cult’ and ‘cowboy’ approach of business development and growth.
We have undertaken to promote business development by focussing on the following strategic imperatives:
- Fostering the right business environment;
- Supporting business investment; and
- Accelerating business innovation
The Business Development Strategy Implementation Report, which I have tabled, reports against the 26 actions set out in the strategy
I would like to highlight some of the major achievements of the last 12 months against the strategic imperatives that we set ourselves.
Fostering the right business environment
We have implemented a Local Procurement policy. Under the policy ACT and region SMEs will receive a favourable weighting when bidding for ACT Government contracts;
We have raised the payroll tax threshold to $1.75m – as a result over 110 businesses are no longer required to pay payroll tax and we have put approximately $6.8m back into small business. And we will progressively raise the threshold to $2m, which will save another 80 businesses from paying payroll tax;
The Red Tape Reduction Panel, which I chair, has overseen the abolition of registration labels for light vehicles, has increased the majority of business licences to a three year maximum term and is reviewing police checking and business signage processes. In addition we have established the Fix My Red Tape web site to allow businesses to bring red tape issues to the Government’s attention;
We have also been working to reduce red tape through the Australian Business Number/Business Names Registration Project and other COAG reforms.
The ACT integrated its business naming functions with the national system last year and now delivers business licence information through the nationally coordinated Australian Business Licence and Information Service. The ACT was one of the first jurisdictions to complete the transition; and
Canberra BusinessPoint, our business advisory service, delivered 842 one-to-one client connections and a further 1,290 client connections via workshops, seminars and networking events last year. These outcomes exceeded the 2012-13 KPIs and the program continues to grow.
Supporting Business Investment
We have established InvestACT to promote the ACT as an investment destination and, following extensive consultation, the ACT Investment Strategy will be launched later this year. In the meantime, InvestACT has been actively working behind the scenes. The recent Solar Auctions were extensively promoted by InvestACT through the Austrade network resulting in over 150 expressions of interest.
We obtained $1.3m from the Commonwealth to prepare businesses and residents for the NBN. In the first five months of operation the Digital Hub and the Digital Enterprise Centre have provided training to more than 500 individuals and 200 businesses. Over 14,000 Gungahlin residents now have access to the NBN and the take up rate is the highest in Australia.
The ACT Government has listened to a number of industry sectors and recognised the need and benefit of an integrated city Brand for Canberra.
Through Brand Canberra the ACT Government, in cooperation with a number of Canberra based industry and community groups, will create a fully integrated city brand that provides a consistent, cohesive and creative approach to marketing the ACT both nationally and internationally as an inviting city, a connected community and a great place to visit.
The Brand project is simply not about developing a logo, it is about creating a platform for people to better understand and engage with Canberra as a place to live, work, invest or visit. It provides a new way for Canberra to talk about ourselves and showcase who we are, what we do and how we do it.
Brand Canberra will promote the role Canberra plays in finding solutions to major local, national and global challenges. It is the place where culture of innovation and creativity breeds extraordinary achievements across science, research, education and business. It is where people come to share big ideas that can be shared with the nation and the world.
The Lighthouse Business Innovation Centre, in addition to providing services for investment oriented young companies;
- Provided management support to the Capital Angels high net worth investors network;
- Delivered the Entrepreneur Development Fund;
- Established the CBR Collective – a retail shopfront in the Canberra Centre for Canberra based designers;
- Delivered the ‘Brilliant Idea Micro Credit Program’ to provide no-interest loans to women on low incomes with a business idea;
The redeveloped business.act.gov.au portal was launched in March this year. As well as providing a much better information service to our business community, it now features a blog with commenting functionality as well as linkages to the new Business Development Twitter and Facebook accounts.
We have also taken the lead in ensuring that we make it easy for skilled workers to migrate to the ACT. In July last year a new on-line skilled migration processing system went live and incorporates the skills branding site Canberra. Create Your Future. The website consists of three key portals – Migrating, Learning and Living – to promote the benefits of living, working and studying in Canberra.
Accelerating Business Innovation
The Innovation Connect program received over 80 applications in 2012/13 of which 26 received funding. Additional funding was provided for a Clean Tech stream to support early stage projects that improve environmental quality, reduce environmental impacts and lead to the development of new, innovative clean technologies and services. Excellent examples of funded programs include:
- Clarus Technologies to develop phase one of its cyber kinetics artificial muscle;
- Trade Up to develop a mobile management system for sub contractors managing workflows in construction projects;
- StalkThis to allow online shoppers to stalk products and services on the web so they can be alerted to price changes; and
- QHopper, a smart phone ordering platform for stadiums and arenas that allows consumers to skip queuing at service counters.
Of particular interest was the grant of $150,000 to the University of Canberra for the development of an Environmental Chamber at its Sports Hub. As a result of this funding the AIS contributed a further $100,000 to the facility;
Our commitment of $1.5m in last year’s budget for the Global Connect program has seen the first ever ACT trade mission to Indonesia, ScreenACT’s first trade mission in France and the establishment of the Centre for Exporting Government Solutions to build ACT exports to other public sector markets focussing on the USA and Asia.
The establishment of Study Canberra recognises the importance of education exports. Over the last 10 years exports from the ACT’s services sector has increased from $800m to $1.4b – an increase of 75%.
The education sector has played a major role in this growth and the government is committed to working with the sector to achieve further growth.
The Chief Minister recently accompanied the Vice-Chancellors of the Australian National University and the University of Canberra on an education mission to China.
The mission demonstrated our strong commitment to growing our international student market; to reiterating the importance of the higher education sector to the ACT; and to promoting the many benefits of studying and living in Canberra;
As a result of our work with the ANU and the business community, Entry 29, a shared working space ‘incubator’, was established in the ANU Exchange Precinct
In 2012 we doubled the CollabIT budget to $100,000. CollabIT does an excellent job in promoting SMEs as innovative companies and establishing partnerships between government agencies, SMEs and multinationals.
A recent member survey found that CollabIT members attributed $925,000 in revenue in 2012-13 to the program and 81% of respondents expected to derive business success in 2013-14 as a result of their engagement in the program;
And, of course, we continue to support the tourism industry. Tourism is another vital part of the ACT economy as both an economic driver and in creating jobs.
The tourism industry currently contributes $1.65 billion to the ACT economy and is one of the territory’s largest private sector employers – supporting 16,000 jobs. This represents 7.7 percent of total employment. Recent tourism initiatives have contributed to growing overnight visitation in the ACT.
There was a 9.0% increase in domestic overnight visitors to the ACT for the year ending June 2013 and a 10.2% increase in domestic overnight visitors during the first six months of Canberra’s Centenary Year. This increase was dominated by growth in the visiting friends and relatives market which saw an increase of 17.1% for overnight visitors and 31.1% for visitor nights.
Domestic visitor expenditure also increased by $159 million for the year ending June 2013.
When looking at international visitation to the ACT, there was a 10.4% increase in international visitors for the year ending June 2013 and a 22.9% increase during the first six months of Canberra’s Centenary Year.
These figures are influenced by visitation generated through investment in major event activity and investment in Centenary focused interstate marketing programs that provided compelling reasons to visit the nation’s capital in Canberra’s Centenary year.
This follows a period of significant investment in promoting Canberra to domestic audiences through the Human Brochure and Centenary tactical campaigns as well as investment in the Toulouse Lautrec and Turner from the Tate blockbuster exhibitions at the National Gallery of Australia.
These are some of the standalone highlights from our first year under the Strategy, but I would like to reflect on some of the deeper and long term positioning work we have been doing; policy directions that give this Strategy its foundation to develop a 21st Century digital city in which innovation and commercialisation thrive.
Prior to 2002 the economic strategy of the ACT Government was based on a ‘cargo cult’ mentality – throw money at multinational companies and the economy will grow.
$36m in payroll tax waivers for EDS, who relocated to Adelaide, $24m for IBM who never achieved the employment targets that the government hoped for, $10m for Fujitsu, $8m cash for Impulse Airlines (remember them) and, of course, the V8 Super Cars fiasco.
The Labor Government stopped the cargo cult mentality and decided to commit to developing an innovation ecosystem built on a research community that understands the need for business linkages, a business community that can work with new ideas, the capital to fund commercialisation and the skilled talent to bring the system together.
The Government’s first commitment was to the funding of National ICT Australia (NICTA). This was a major opportunity to establish a new building block for the innovation ecosystem in the ACT. It was the opportunity to link research and commercialisation in a new and fundamentally different way. The ANU, Australia’s premier research university, was a partner in this new approach.
The ACT Government has re-funded its Founding Member association with NICTA on two occasions. NICTA is now recognised internationally as a premier ICT research organisation and its Canberra Research Laboratory is undertaking world leading and world renowned ICT research activities.
NICTA Canberra has now graduated over 300 PhD students. Its Canberra researchers, including the current crop of around 55 PhD students, are engaged in challenging collaborative projects across the country that are transforming major industry sectors.
Indeed NICTA’s Canberra researchers are working with the ACT Government, ACT companies and other research groups at ANU and the University of Canberra in areas including smart grid developments, solar energy output prediction, transport optimisation and social media monitoring.
For example NICTA has headquartered its eHealth “living laboratory” at the University of Canberra’s Faculty of Health Clinical Teaching Building. The lab aims to develop technology and business processes that will enable health care providers to deliver better services, increased access and open new opportunities for businesses.
NICTA in Canberra also hosts the Australian eGovernment Cluster, a combined initiative of the ACT Government and NICTA, together with support from the Canberra Business Council and local industry. The Cluster promotes collaboration between government, industry and research in finding innovative ICT solutions to increasingly complex problems faced by government today.
An independent analysis by Deloitte estimates that two of NICTA’s projects based solely in the ACT, the ePASA and Automap projects, will have a combined annual impact of $354 million a year on the national economy either through cost savings or increased productivity. The same Deloitte study quantified NICTA’s current impact on the national economy at $2 billion per annum through productivity and efficiency savings.
It is a great shame that the incoming Federal Government does not value the work NICTA perform and has decided to slash its funding to NICTA - one of the most short-sighted decisions they have made to date.
The ACT’s innovation ecosystem also is blessed with the ANU, the University of Canberra and the CSIRO.
The ANU is Australia’s premier research university and, as smart cities throughout the world have demonstrated, the right research environment is the key to industry innovation. The ACT Government has worked closely with the ANU to strengthen the links between the ANU and the business community.
The regeneration of City West is an excellent example of collaboration to build the infrastructure necessary to foster innovation and develop knowledge based business opportunities. The location of NICTA in City West was the key to its redevelopment – indeed NICTA was one of the first buildings to emerge from the dirt car parks you might remember of City West just 10 years ago.
The new City West is a testament to how Government and research institutions can provide the infrastructure that drives innovation. The Government’s ‘City to the Lake’ vision builds on what has been achieved in City West.
City to the Lake reinforces Canberra as smart city – an exemplar of a progressive, inclusive and vibrant city with a distinctive urban culture. It is fundamental to making Civic more than just a ‘drive through’ City centre, delivering over 1.2 million square metres of mixed use development for over 10,000 new residents located in the most accessible location in the City around West Basin, City Hill and along Constitution Avenue.
This land is also the most strategically important land in the Capital. It enables further growth for knowledge based businesses in the corridor between the ANU and CSIRO, the City, Russell and the Airport.
City to the Lake will be a world class project. The project has been nationally recognised for design excellence, innovation and sustainability with receipt of the 2013 Australia Award for Urban Design. Having similar ambition and scope to other major waterfront projects in other Australian cities such as Barangaroo, Docklands in Melbourne, Southbank in Brisbane and Perth waterfront, it enhances the ability for the City to attract and retain creative industries and people.
Rather than turn its back on the Lake and Commonwealth Park, the City will embrace these assets of the national capital. Connectivity between the City, the ANU and existing and new lakeside national attractions will be dramatically enhanced with a grand new public waterfront at West Basin. The daily life of the City will engage with the lake.
Combined with a new multi-use stadium, Australia Forum and lakeside aquatic centre, Civic will become a place which is more attractive to residents and visitors, where people will happily stay longer. It will be more active, safer and accessible with diverse activities during the day and at night
The ANU’s Advanced Instrumentation and Technology Centre at Mt Stromlo, built with part of the ANU’s insurance proceeds from the 2003 bushfires, is creating a new national centre for the Australian space community, connecting researchers and industry partners from around the country and across the globe.
ACT company Electro Optic Systems, a world leader in space debris laser tracking technology and co-located at Mt Stromlo, is partnering with the Centre to develop a space industry innovation precinct at Mt Stromlo.
Recently the Commonwealth Government announced that EOS and the ANU had successfully bid to develop a Space and Spatial Industry Partnership at Mt Stromlo under the Commonwealth Government’s Industry Partnership program. In addition to EOS and the ANU another key player in the partnership is ACT company Locata whose technology expands GPS capability and allows it to be used in areas where the GPS service can’t reach, for example, in open-cut mines and inside buildings.
This outcome is a wonderful opportunity for the ACT. The future importance of this industry cannot be overstated. Australia’s space industry is involved in earth observation, global positioning, communications and defence activities. The spatial sector consists of fields such as surveying, remote sensing, location based services, mapping, aerial imagery, land development, environmental management and geographic information systems.
This Partnership will bring the two together for the benefit of a whole range of industries – for example, mining, agriculture, utilities, defence, emergency management, communications, transport and infrastructure.
The Partnership aims to create more than 10,000 new high-technology jobs, expand exports and grow revenues of up to $12.5 billion per annum by 2023. Although the Partnership is to have a national focus, with its headquarters located at Mt Stromlo we can expect that large proportion of this growth will occur here.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Dr Ben Greene of EOS for taking the lead in this partnership. Dr Greene is keen to ensure that the Partnership quickly develops a commercial focus. If businesses in the Partnership can replicate EOS’ success of generating 90% of its $400m revenue through exports then the sky is the limit for this Partnership.
To support the Partnership, we have pledged in-kind support of $120,000 per annum by providing the services of a Business Development case manager to the Partnership to give businesses access to the Government’s business development services.
In addition, we have agreed to look at the business case for providing the Partnership with a capital injection for the development of an incubator facility at Mt Stromlo.
The CSIRO also plays a key role in our innovation ecosystem. The Government made a $1.1 million co-contribution to establish the High Resolution Plant Phenomics Centre. This has leveraged $19m of Australian Government funding for the Centre and the establishment of the Canberra node of this national facility at Black Mountain.
The Centre adds greatly to CSIRO’s plant industry capability in the ACT and indeed Black Mountain is the nominated location of CSIRO’s national Plant Industry precinct.
What has been created is unique knowledge capability here in Canberra that is now attracting interest nationally and across the globe. As one example the Centre is participating in a multinational consortium funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to develop the technology to double rice yields by 2050.
The University of Canberra is similarly delivering new approaches that drive innovation and job growth in Canberra’s economy. The Government’s commitment to the development of UC’s Allied Health facility has directly lead to the development of the University of Canberra Public Hospital, the headquartering of NICTA’s eHealth Living laboratory at UC and the establishment of the University’s Sports Commons.
The first stage of the Sports Common, the Sports Hub - partly funded by a grant of $5m from this Government - will see community sporting organisations and the Brumbies located on the University’s campus. In addition, through the Strategic Opportunities Funding Program, we provided $150,000 for the establishment of an environmental chamber in the Sports Hub building. The AIS has provided an additional $100,000 towards the facility.
The strength of the Sports Common has now been recognised by two recent Commonwealth announcements. The first one is the establishment of the Sports Technology Partnership under the Industry Innovation Partnership program. While not headquartered in Canberra the presence of the University of Canberra as a core partner, and its proximity to the AIS and ASC, will ensure many of the benefits will flow to the Canberra community.
The second announcement was that Regional Development Australia will provide $10m in funding for the University to build the next phase of its ‘Sporting Commons’ development. The new building, which will include large indoor sports facilities, will be used to help promote the ‘physical literacy’ of people in the region – teaching them to become active, enjoy being active and, importantly, keep being active throughout their life.
With the establishment of the Sports Technology Partnership, strong connections to the AIS, which is considering a joint professorial appointment, and the Australian Sports Commission, the Sports Commons will not only attract more students in the sports and sport medicine fields but will also attract companies wanting to commercialise the innovative ideas that come out of it.
It is important to see these approaches as more than investment in research. What they are about is investing in new knowledge capability; knowledge that attracts talent, investment and creation of intellectual property with commercial value that can attract and form new businesses.
A strong research community is only one part of an innovation ecosystem. The right business environment is also critical for success and the Government has played a major role in delivering this.
We have worked hard to position our innovation and entrepreneurship programs to ensure that there is a clear commercialisation path in the ACT for novel ideas with commercial potential.
The ACT Government’s popular Innovation Connect Grant Program, which provides early stage funding to progress novel solutions to a proof of technology stage, has supported over 110 projects with funding of over $2.8m.
The Government’s sponsorship of the Lighthouse Business Innovation Centre, which delivers peer support and expert advice to innovators and entrepreneurs, has also been significant in linking projects into Innovation Connect and then to complementary programs along the commercialisation path.
The ACT’s capital market has matured – local innovative businesses now have greater access to early stage capital. For example, firms at the proof of concept and early commercialisation stage can now access the Discovery Translation Fund, ANU Connect Ventures, the Canberra Business Development Fund and the Business Angels network. Ten years ago there was only the Canberra Business Development Fund with just $2m available for investment.
The ACT Government invested $10m in the ANU Connect Ventures equity fund to leverage a follow in investment of $20m from the Motor Traders Association of Australia. Nearly $8m of that investment is currently under active management with investments through both the Equity Fund and the Discovery Translation Fund.
The ACT Government has also increased the original investment in the CBDF administered by Australian Capital Ventures Limited. ACT Government funding now totals $4.5m, which has been matched by the Hindmarsh Group. To date, the fund has created some 80 new jobs and leveraged an extra $162m from private and Commonwealth sources.
The ACT Business Angels network, which received a small establishment grant from the ACT Government, is now a well organised and active angel investment community making regular investments into innovative ACT companies. Now operationally linked to the other major institutional players in the innovation system, the angels network continues to grow and broaden.
The Angels network also partners with the Lighthouse Business Innovation Centre to identify potential high-growth businesses requiring early stage investment.
Let me highlight a few examples of successful companies that have been supported along the ACT commercialisation path:
- Sage Health, the developer of SmartWard, a practical health informatics solution to revolutionise patient care in hospitals, has been facilitated through programs including Lighthouse, Innovation Connect, the Discovery Translation Fund and recently by Commercialisation Australia.
- Digitalcore, which is a leading provider of revolutionary 3D high-resolution image based core analysis and petrophysical services to the oil and gas industry, emerged from the ANU and received support from ANU Connect Ventures, Trade Connect and Lighthouse. Digitalcore recently joined forces with Numerical Rocks from Norway and, now known as Lithicon, is a fully integrated imaging and analysis service provider to the global market.
- Quintessence Labs, another ANU spinout, a developer of ultra secure encryption technology to protect networks, has gained international attention as the runner up of the IBM Global Smart Camp and has established an office at NASA’s AMES research facility in Silicon Valley.
The ACT is a smart and clean city and we continue to promote the city’s competitive advantages in this area.
As members are aware, this Government is committed to making the ACT Australia’s solar capital and achieving a target of 90% renewable energy by 2020. The recent decision to build solar facilities at Mugga Lane and Coree, along with the previously approved Royalla Solar Farm, will generate enough renewable energy to power 10,000 Canberra homes.
This in turn provides opportunities for showcasing Canberra and developing innovation and commercialisation opportunities. As I mentioned earlier, InvestACT played a supporting role in promoting the solar auction process and facilitated the involvement of local, national and international companies’ participation in the auction. Already, partnerships are being developed between project developers and research institutions that will contribute to the further development of our growing clean energy sector.
In addition, NICTA’s Canberra Research Laboratory is teaming up with solar energy experts from the ANU, ActewAGL and local ACT companies Armada Solar and Laros Technology to develop ways of predicting the expected power output from rooftop solar energy systems. Forecasting solar energy production over a time span ranging from minutes to hours is important in order to stabilise the energy grid, decrease operational costs, and ultimately achieve a high penetration of distributed solar energy production.
The ACT business community now has a reputation for being export focussed. The ACT’s export statistics continue to be impressive:
- The value of goods and services exports from the ACT increased by 9.4% to $1.3 billion in 2011-12 above the national rate of growth of 6.3%;
- The ACT had the highest year on year growth rate among jurisdictions in 2011-12; and
- The five year trend growth rate in ACT exports is 6.8%
We have played a major role in facilitating this growth. Through the Canberra Business Council, we established the ACT Exporters’ Network to bring successful exporters and emerging exporters together. The Network plays a pivotal role in promoting trade development, in connecting companies to services and the delivery of ACT Government trade missions.
We also supported the establishment of the Centre for Exporting Government Solutions to assist local innovative firms that sell to government to access other public sector markets around the world.
The focus in the establishment period has been the US market; however there is significant opportunity arising in the developing markets of Asia and the South Pacific.
And, as I mentioned earlier, in April this year I led the ACT Government’s first ever Trade Mission to Indonesia themed around the ACT’s competitive strengths in areas of international education, knowledge intensive business services, ICT services and expertise in public administration.
Over the last 12 months:
- Aspen Medical continued its breathtaking rise as a multi disciplinary health services provider in the defence, humanitarian and resources sectors. Its revenue grew $32m to $95m over 2012 with its global footprint expanding in Asia, the Middle East, North America and Europe.
- Seeing Machines, which emerged from ANU research and development,signed a significant strategic agreement with Caterpillar Global Mining, the world’s leading manufacturer of mining equipment, for the use of its in-cab Fatigue Monitoring Systems.
- Bearcage Productions signed the first ever formal co-production agreement for a documentary television series between Australia and China Central Television’s CCTV9 Documentary Channel. The Story of Australia, a six-part series, will be broadcast on CCTV9 and internationally.
- DataPod the complete solution modular data centre manufacturer deployed units to Papua New Guinea and Sweden over 2012/13 and, Madam Speaker, I can assure you that touring the facility at Fyshwick where these data centres are pieced together is quite an experience.
And as I also mentioned earlier we have taken a positive approach through Study Canberra to our biggest export earner - the export of education services.
The ‘reverse good’ to exporting is inwards investment. A growing innovative economy needs to be open to both capital investment and the recruitment of people with skills and knowledge.
It should not come as a surprise to members to learn that Canberra has become home to an emerging networking and cyber security industry, after all Canberra is home to ASIO, ASIS, the Department of Defence, the Australian Government Information Management Office and the National Cyber Security Centre. As a result there are strong linkages between international firms and Canberra SMEs that have niche expertise in this area.
In 2012 the Chief Minister opened global integrator company Lockheed Martin’s $10m NextGen Cyber Innovation and Technology Centre in Kingston and international defence and security giant Northrop Grumman purchased local Canberra company M5 Network Security to provide increased cyber security and communications to its Australian clients.
Similarly, Canberra has a strong competitive advantage in the more traditional defence related industries. The presence of the headquarters of the Department of Defence in Canberra means that both prime defence contractors and innovative defence SMEs need to be located here.
In May this year three Canberra companies – EOS, CEA Technologies and Insitec were selected by Northrop Grumman under the Australia Defence Materiel Organisation's Global Supply Chain Program. As a result, the companies will share in contracts valued at $7.4m.
More surprisingly there is a small but growing mining services cluster built around the activities of Geoscience Australia. Companies including Aspen Medical, DataPod, Corporate Air, Digital Core, Locata and Contractor Compliance are all active in the resources, oil and gas sectors.
These case studies form an important part of the profile of the ACT as an investment destination. To build on this profile, a key priority of the Business Development Strategy was the establishment of InvestACT. The InvestACT team is now taking shape and the Investment Strategy – an important piece of positioning work - will be launched later in the year.
The Strategy has been developed following the completion of a benchmarking study that compared investment approaches in six other ‘government town’ cities around the world.
The Strategy will be based on a proactive approach to investment promotion and strong collaboration between the Government and the private sector. In particular, InvestACT will target the re-investment pipeline; that is, growing the footprint of major Australian and international companies that that already have a presence in the ACT or companies that we feel should be here.
We are not only keen to attract capital and investment to Canberra but also skilled workers. The skilled migration program has directly attracted over 1,500 workers to Canberra over the last five years. Many have brought skills that have been in high demand in the ACT’s growing ICT sector. Significantly these workers have also brought in over $221m of personal investment into the Canberra economy.
In addition, over the last five years, the skilled migration program has assisted ACT employers to sponsor over 2,400 workers in a range of skilled occupations including the health, hospitality and academic sectors.
The Government’s business migration program has sponsored 52 business migrants who have invested over $62m into the ACT’s hospitality and property development sectors.
Importantly, skilled migration adds to our cultural diversity, it builds links and networks globally, it injects capital into our economy, and it is an important driver of population growth and the property market.
All of these activities come together to showcase a different Canberra to the one we constantly see portrayed in the media.
The support that we provide for NICTA, the ANU, CSIRO and the University of Canberra not only drives research, innovation and business growth but also raises the profile of Canberra as a study destination for a new generation of students from both within Australia and overseas.
Through Brand Canberra and in cooperation with industry and community groups, we are creating a fully integrated city brand that provides a consistent, cohesive and creative approach to marketing the ACT both nationally and internationally as a great place to visit, live, invest and study.
Through InvestACT we will focus on promoting Canberra as an investment destination for Australian and international companies that fit with our competitive advantages. We will profile the business success stories that we have seen emerge over the last few years.
Through the Exporters’ Network and the trade mission program we will continue to showcase ACT companies on the world stage.
Through the skilled migration program we will continue to deliver the skills the business community requires to innovate, grow and expand as well as bring in investment to the community and drive population growth.
And we will continue through our taxation policies and commitment to reducing red tape to support the innovation ecosystem in the ACT.
When I launched the strategy just over 12 months ago I undertook to report to the Assembly annually. The following figures indicate how successful these policies have been:
- In 2011-12 the total number of actively trading ACT businesses grew by 1.6%. This was the highest of all States/Territories and four times the national growth of 0.4%.
- Retail turnover grew by 3.3% in the ACT in the year to July 2013, compared to 2.3% nationally over the same period.
- In the year to August 2013, the ACT labour force grew by 1,600 while unemployment fell to 3.7%, compared to a national unemployment rate of 5.8%.
- Over the last five years we have seen 13,200 new jobs and over the last ten years 35,900 new jobs.
- Population growth, at 2.3 % per annum, remains above average for the ACT and above the national rate of 1.8%.
- Over the last five years, service exports in the ACT have grown by an average of 6.9% per annum, compared to national growth in service exports of 0.8% per annum over the same period. In 2011-12, the ACT’s exports were worth $1.27 billion (of which $1.26 billion was in service exports).
State Final Demand, Consumer Price Inflation and Wage Price Inflation are all on par with national averages.
There is one business statistic that I often see quoted that I would like to address – the survival rate for small businesses in the ACT.
The survival rate is marginally lower than the national average but the business start up rate, at an average of 3.9% per annum over the last ten years, is higher than the national rate.
In a services economy such as the ACT’s, where there are not a lot of barriers to transitioning from running a small business to moving into paid employment and vice versa, it is not surprising that both the business formation rates and the non-survival rates are marginally higher than the national average.
Importantly, ASIC data indicate that the business failure rate in the ACT due to bankruptcy is comparable with national data and that poor economic conditions were only nominated in 14% of bankruptcies as a cause of failure – half the national rate.
Most importantly the number of businesses has continued to grow – there are now over 2,000 more businesses in the ACT then there were in 2003.
The Business Development Strategy is the right strategy for the future.
It builds on the policies that we have put in place. Our vision is to continue to build on those policies – we will continue to support research and innovation through the ANU, NICTA, the University of Canberra and the CSIRO; we will continue to support linkages between business and research institutions such as the Space and Spatial Industry Partnership; we will continue to promote the benefits of the ACT as a business and tourism destination; we will continue to deliver programs that target the needs of innovative and growing businesses; we will continue to showcase innovative businesses to potential export markets; and we will continue to create the right environment for businesses to grow and expand.
The ACT is already one of Australia’s best performing economies. Our strategy will continue to grow the economy, diversify our industry profile and create jobs for residents of the ACT both now and into the future.