Business Connect Newsletter

July 2013

This newsletter provides business news and events on the programs and activities of Business Development, part of the Economic Development Directorate.

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ACT Film Industry makes its mark on Cannes

In May, a delegation from the local Canberra film industry headed over to Cannes to take part in Marché du Film, the annual film market that takes place alongside one of the world’s major film festivals, Festival de Cannes.

This year was the first time a collective group representing the ACT Screen Industry attended the market. The group of 10, led by ScreenACT External Link - opens in new window Director, Monica Penders, included a number of Canberra-based producers and the ACT Screen Investment Fund Manager.

ScreenACT has been working hard over the past years to develop the feature film industry in Canberra. Before leaving, Ms Penders said ''We've just been doing so much development over the last two years, it's timely for us to do this''.

“ScreenACT has been working closely with the producers to maximize the opportunity and exposure.  Going as a group means we can support each other, keep costs down and really get the most out of the market by keeping our eyes open for not only personal opportunity but for one of the other local producers”. Read more in the ‘Canberra Times’ article, Future Fellinis prepare to flaunt films at Cannes External Link - opens in new window.

Marché du Film has grown from humble beginnings with a few dozen participants and one screening room in 1959. Now, 50 years later, the market sees over 11,000 participants annually from over 100 different countries, making it one of the most important meeting places for the industry. Participants consist of a wide range of the film industry including international sales agents, distributors, production companies, national and state film agencies and investors. Find out more about the Marché du Film External Link - opens in new window.

The group took over a number of completed productions and projects in development, including ‘Me & My Mates vs the Zombie Apocalypse’, produced by Daniel Sanguineti, and ‘The Farmer’, produced by Andrew Einspruich, which both came out of ScreenACT's low-budget feature initiative.

To help support this export market development activity, the producers also received matched dollar funding assistance though the ACT Government’s Trade Connect grant program. Both the Trade Connect program and the ACT Screen Investment Fund are initiatives within Growth, Diversification and Jobs: A Business Development Strategy for the ACT.

“We had some great group opportunities – to meet with among others, the producer of Twilight; the head of acquisitions for Warner Bros UK and international sales agent Simon Crowe – who all gave us top tips on getting the most out of Cannes and the market” Ms Penders said following the trip.

The ACT representatives held many individual as well as group meetings, including some that were arranged by Screen Australia External Link - opens in new window specifically for the ACT delegation.

Overall, the ACT delegation  had a successful trip to Cannes, with Ms Penders stating “The first overseas film market Trade Mission was more successful than I anticipated with a number of the teams actually getting offers for distribution from international sales agents and distributors for completed low budget feature projects and other films that are in development.”

This included:

  • a feature film that received serious interest from Australian based international sales agents,
  • a completed Zombie feature film, whose producer is now in negotiation with an international sales agent, and
  • a completed low budget film whose producer is in negotiation with a sales agent for the South American Territories.

“To see the difference between the first day and the last – the ACT representatives were out there making multiple meetings, working the market and getting firsthand knowledge of just how global a product film is” said Ms Penders.

“I am looking forward to Berlin in February with some new additions to this group and hope that these trade missions will be a yearly event on the ScreenACT calendar.”

ScreenACT Director, Monica Penders presents Patrick Strafford Head of Acquisitions for Warner Bros UK with a boomerang.
ScreenACT Director, Monica Penders presents Patrick Strafford Head of Acquisitions for Warner Bros UK with a boomerang.

Part of the ACT team that attended Marche du Film.
Part of the ACT team that attended Marche du Film.

International Village pavilion set up for Marche du Film.
International Village pavilion set up for Marche du Film.

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ICon recipient turns tragedy into innovation

In 2008, Canberra local Matt Darling spent several months in hospital caring for one of his children. He could never have expected that that experience would lead him on a journey to help revolutionise the delivery of patient care in hospitals.

It all began when scans revealed that Darling’s daughter, 15-month old Jem, had a rare tumour on her brain that required surgery. In an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald, Darling recounted a story about a nurse running late in administering a vital post-operative steroid to Jem.

"They'd had to cut through large sections of Jem's brain. A common cause of death after that sort of surgery is a haemorrhage within the brain."

"I kept reminding her but she kept being distracted by people asking for this or that." Eventually, the medication was an hour overdue, “so I knocked on the office door of the nurse unit manager and asked for her help."

The manager checked Jem's chart and told him the records showed that the drug had been administered. The nurse stated that she had given Jem the medication when Darling had stepped away, however eventually confessed that this was not true.

It was this experience, and Darling’s observations that lead him to believe something needed to change. He didn’t believe it was the staff’s fault that these errors were occurring, instead that "It was the structure of the system, and the workload."

"The problem was not 'too many patients and too few nurses', but too much repetitive administration for nurses, who are generally highly qualified people," Darling said.

"We found that 65 per cent of a nurse's time was spent on records, administration and the like, and 35 per cent on patient interaction and care. Which is an astonishing statistic when you think about it." Read the full 'Sydney Morning Herald' article, Heart and Mind External Link - opens in new window.

Darling, an IT systems analyst and designer, decided to come up with a new way for hospitals, nurses and medical professionals to perform many of these administrative tasks. The end result was SmartWard.

SmartWard aims to replace the paper records that hospitals currently use and automate many of the tasks that take time away from patient care. The system is intuitive to use and will be located at all points of care delivery in hospital preventing errors, improving patient outcomes and reducing costs.

SmartWard was awarded Innovation Connect (ICon) grant funding in 2010-11 to assist with development of the technology.  In opening SmartWard’s new office in 2012, ACT Chief Minister Katy Gallager stated “It was through this grant that the company has been able to move forward at a rapid rate and enabled them to accelerate their progress to market by expanding their development team and opening the office in the ACT”

"SmartWard is quickly making its mark on the e-Health industry both locally and on a national level by commercialising a new health informatics technology for hospital wards”.  Read more in Canberra start-up company SmartWard opens new offices External Link - opens in new window.

Following their ICon funding, SmartWard also received funding from the ANU Discovery Translation Fund and Commercialisation Australia.

This has helped SmartWard to get to the stage where clinical trials can begin on the computer system.

To find out more, visit the SmartWard website External Link - opens in new window. To learn more about Mr Darling and his other innovations, including a companion resource developed for those affected by Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), visit Matt Darling’s blog External Link - opens in new window.

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NICTA farewells founding board member

At its May board meeting, NICTA External Link - opens in new window, Australia’s Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Research Centre of Excellence, farewelled board member Brand Hoff.

Mr Hoff had been involved with NICTA since its inception and is one of the longest serving board members.  He has more than 40 years experience in the ICT industry, including the development of the Australian Bibliographic Network for the National Library of Australia as well as work with the Treasury department.

In 1985, Mr Hoff founded TOWER Software Engineering, a business he grew into a Canberra-based multinational.  The business received numerous industry accolades including three Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA) iAwards, ACT Small Business of the Year, NSW Emerging Exporter of the Year and the National AusIndustry Innovation Award. TOWER, which developed the TRIM content management software, was sold to Hewlett Packard in May 2008, following a formal takeover offer.

Mr Hoff is well known and highly respected member of the Canberra business community. He is the immediate past Chair of the Canberra Business Council and continues to serve the Council as a board member.

In 2011, Mr Hoff was awarded the National Pearcey Medal, one Australia’s most prestigious Information and Communications Technology (ICT) industry awards, for a lifetime contribution to ICT.  Dr Ian Oppermann, former Director ICT Centre, CSIRO presented the award, stating that Mr Hoff’s “pioneering efforts in Electronic Records Management Systems positioned Australia as the world’s leader in the creation and use of this now pervasive technology”.

“It is the individual efforts of people like Mr Hoff that exemplify how Australia can successfully innovate and improves its productivity.” Read more about the 2011 National Pearcey Medal External Link - opens in new window.

Following this, in 2012, Mr Hoff was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in the Queen’s Birthday Honours. Read more in the 'Canberra Times' article, IT giant-killer 'chuffed' over recognition External Link - opens in new window.

In farewelling Mr Hoff, Neville Stevens AO, NICTA Board Chairman said that Brand was departing after ten years of dedicated service.

“With his first-hand experience building and running a successful software company, he has helped develop a strong and vital entrepreneurial culture at NICTA. He will be missed.”

Mr Hoff responded stating “It has been a great privilege to serve as a NICTA Board Member and I am very proud to have contributed to the growth of NICTA from conception through to maturity.”

“NICTA is now ten years young and has a strong national and international reputation for research, innovation and commercialisation. I believe the digital revolution has only just begun and Australia is fortunate to have an ICT centre of excellence like NICTA to help navigate to the digital future.”

At the same meeting, Mr Stevens also farewelled fellow board member Barney Glover. The two retiring members were replaced by IBM Australia’s Research Director Glenn Wightwick and Southern Cross University’s Vice-Chancellor Peter Lee. Read more in NICTA welcomes two new Board members External Link - opens in new window.

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My Digital City Innovation Competition

The ACT Government will soon commence the first round of its My Digital City Innovation Competition (MDCIC).

Supported by NICTA External Link - opens in new window and CollabIT External Link - opens in new window, the MDCIC will be delivered by e-Government Cluster External Link - opens in new window under the direction of a Program Board chaired by Mr Tony Henshaw, a local industry leader in the ICT sector.

The MDCIC, an initiative of Growth, Diversification and Jobs: A Business Development Strategy for the ACT, aims to engage ACT innovators and SMEs in the development of new or improved digital government services. It is anticipated that this will stimulate innovation in electronic and mobile technologies, in turn helping to improve community access to government and public sector services.

Leading up to each round of the competition, ACT Government Directorates as well as the general public will have the opportunity to put forward unresolved business requirements that would be considered relevant to the funding scope of the competition.

One to two of the requests will then be selected, with ACT innovators and SMEs invited to submit conceptual solutions to the problem. Two concepts will be chosen to be developed to the proven feasibility or non-feasibility stage. Coaching and mentoring will be provided free of charge to the successful innovators or SMEs during the progress of the selected projects. They will also be able to apply for separate Innovation Connect grant funding to help with the commercialisation of their products and ideas.

The results of each project will be published as a case study.  The best case study will go on to be the winner of the Competition, receiving $12,500 in prize money. The MDCIC runner up will receive $7,500 in prize money.

Two competition rounds will be run each year over a period of three years. Information on the first competition round will be provided on the Business Development website available at For further details please contact us at

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ACT Budget 2013-2014: Supporting Growth, Diversification and Jobs

On 4 June 2013, ACT Treasurer Andrew Barr handed down the 2013-14 ACT Budget, a budget about building and transforming Canberra for a prosperous and sustainable second century.

Within the budget, he acknowledged Canberra’s connected and collaborative private sector –a hub for a growing regional economy – and outlined support initiatives for local businesses to ensure they continue to thrive.

These initiatives continue through the implementation of Growth, Diversification and Jobs: A Business Development Strategy for the ACT, released by Minister Bar in April 2012. They encourage businesses and our economy to grow and diversify, and assist businesses to create jobs. Placing a high priority on market-based approaches that broaden employment and business growth, the initiatives aim to improve Canberra’s competitiveness and economic sustainability. They focus on small to medium enterprises and broadening the role of the private sector by providing targeted funding and support to local businesses and helping to attract new businesses and investment.

This includes supporting Territory businesses to sell their goods and services to the world, with $1.5 million in funding committed to the Global Connect program over a period of two years. Global Connect consists of a range of programs to raise awareness among ACT businesses about exporting, promote collaboration among local exporters, increase the number of local exporters and help them tap into new markets. This is delivered through a number of programs including the Trade Connect grant program, the ACT Exporter’s Network External Link - opens in new window and the ACT Chief Minister’s Export Awards External Link - opens in new window. Read more about the Global Connect funding announcement.

In addition to this, over $5 million has been committed to other initiatives within Growth, Diversification and Jobs: A Business Development Strategy for the ACT. Innovation is a major focus of this, with:

  • $3 million for NICTA External Link - opens in new window, Australia's centre of excellence for information and communication technology research;
  • $650,000 for the Innovation Connect grant program, designed to help Canberra based businesses develop innovative products and services; 
  • $300,000 for the Strategic Opportunities Funding Program, which provides seed funding for the establishment of new innovation infrastructure and collaborative projects in the university and research sector; and
  • $100,000 for the My Digital City innovation prize to stimulate the development of digitally based government services.

The ACT Government is facilitating a business friendly environment through payroll tax reform and reducing red tape. A total of $180,000 was committed to support the already ongoing work of the Red Tape Reduction Panel External Link - opens in new window.

Further support is also provided for business investment, with the development of a brand strategy to shape and promote Canberra comparative advantage as well as committing $520,000 to the newly launched InvestACT program.  This will help allow the InvestACT team to support proactive investment facilitation by providing business intelligence on the Canberra market and supporting potential investors to develop opportunities in the Capital region.

The ACT Government’s expectation is that over the medium to long term, the initiatives within the Business Development Strategy, working in concert with other aligned strategies and approaches of the Government, will lead to measurable diversification and growth in the private sector.

View the full ACT Budget 2013-2014 External Link - opens in new window.

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ACT Government continues to cut red tape for businesses

Red tape for business professionals will be cut, through a new initiative by the ACT Government which allows extended licence periods for a variety of industries ACT Attorney General, Simon Corbell, announced on 6 June 2013.

"Among those who will benefit are motor vehicle repairers, employment agents, second hand dealers, travel agents and car market operators," Minister Corbell said.

"Amending the maximum term for these licences will help reduce the regulatory burden faced by those businesses within the ACT”.

"This amendment means that individuals and businesses in those industries will save time and effort as they will no longer need to apply for annual licences or registration renewals”.

The requirement for annual renewals has only been removed where the licence period could appropriately be extended without any adverse impact on public safety. If there is public safety, health or other considerations that justify an annual assessment, then those licence or registration renewals will remain annual.

"This change continues the Government's commitment to supporting the development of a strong private sector in the ACT. A strong, diverse and successful private sector benefits all Canberrans, whether as ratepayers, employees or consumers," said Minister Corbell.

This amendment was a recommendation of the ACT Government's Red Tape Reduction Panel External Link - opens in new window, established in July 2012 to identify regulations that impose unnecessary burdens, costs or disadvantages on business in the ACT, and recommend ways to remove and improve outdated, unworkable and illogical regulation.

The Panel includes representatives from the Canberra Business Council, the ACT and Region Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and the Council of Small Business Australia.

"The Government will continue to work with business leaders and stakeholders to create a more efficient and effective licence system for the ACT," Minister Corbell said.

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Ambassadors busy learning Canberra life

Earlier this year the ACT Government launched the 2013 ACT International Student Ambassadors program. The program is an initiative of the ACT Government’s Global Connect program, as identified in Growth, Diversification and Jobs: A Business Development Strategy for the ACT, and this year comprises of thirty six international students from a range of Canberra institutions. Their role is to promote Canberra and our excellent education institutions as a first choice destination for international students to study, work and play. A strong focus on using social media has been developed and the ambassadors are regularly spreading the positive experiences they are having in Canberra around the world.

Since their induction, the ambassadors have been busy learning the Australian ways, building networks and relationships with other students and selling the Canberra life back to their home countries.

They have had a full agenda, including trips to local Canberra attractions such as the National Museum of Australia, the National Zoo and Aquarium and the National Dinosaur Museum.

The ambassadors have also had the opportunity to be immersed in both Australian and international cultures, competing against each other in an international cooking competition as well as having the opportunity to attend an upcoming QL2 contemporary dance performance which includes local indigenous dancers.

The ambassadors recently attended more formal events, including the launch of the 2013 ACT Chief Minister’s Export Awards External Link - opens in new window and a tour of Parliament House, hosted by Andrew Leigh MP and ACT Historian, Dr David Headon.

To find out more visit the ACT International Student Ambassadors website External Link - opens in new window.

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