Business Connect Newsletter

October 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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Growth, Diversification and Jobs: Implementation Report

In April last year Minister Barr MLA, ACT Minister for Economic Development, launched Growth, Diversification and Jobs: A Business Development Strategy for the ACT. The strategy aims to provide the right support to businesses, to capitalise on the strong foundations Canberra already has. It focuses on three strategic imperatives: fostering the right business environment; supporting business investment; and accelerating business innovation.

So, 18 months on, where are we at with the implementation of the Strategy and what has been achieved? On 17 September 2013, Minister Barr presented an implementation report providing an update on just this, highlighting some of the major achievements in the implementation over the first twelve months.

Fostering the right business environment

  • The ACT Government has implemented a Local Procurement policy. Under the policy ACT and region SMEs will receive a favourable weighting when bidding for ACT Government contracts.
  • The ACT Government has raised the payroll tax threshold to $1.75m. As a result over 110 businesses are no longer required to pay payroll tax, resulting in a total saving of approximately $6.8m back to small business. The ACT Government will progressively raise the threshold to $2m, which will save another 80 businesses from paying payroll tax.
  • The Red Tape Reduction Panel 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 the Government has established the Fix My Red Tape website External Link - opens in new window to allow businesses to bring red tape issues to the Government’s attention.
  • 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 (ABLIS) External Link - opens in new window. The ACT was one of the first jurisdictions to complete the transition.
  • Canberra BusinessPoint External Link - opens in new window, 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.

Supporting Business Investment

  • The ACT Government has established InvestACT to promote the ACT as an investment destination and, following extensive consultation, the ACT Investment Strategy will be launched later this year.
  • The ACT Government 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 External Link - opens in new window 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 progressed the development of a new city brand which will be launched later this year. The project aims to 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 ACT Government is establishing new systems to make it quicker for employers to fill skill gaps in our workforce with eligible skilled migrants. In July last year a new online skilled migration processing system went live and incorporates the skills branding site Canberra. Create Your Future External Link - opens in new window

Accelerating Business Innovation.

  • The Innovation Connect program received over 80 applications in 2012/13 of which 26 projects received partnership 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.
  • The new Strategic Opportunities Fund provided partnered funding of $347,000 to four Canberra research groups to develop leading edge collaborative research projects.
  • The ACT Government’s 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 External Link - opens in new window to build ACT exports to other public sector markets focussing on the USA and Asia.
  • As a result of the ACT Government’s work with the ANU and the business community, Entry 29 External Link - opens in new window, a shared working space ‘incubator’, was established in the ANU Exchange Precinct.
  • In 2012 the ACT Government doubled its contribution to the CollabIT engagement program to $100,000. CollabIT works to promote SMEs as innovative companies and establish partnerships between government agencies, SMEs and multinationals.
  • The ACT Government entered into a third phase funding arrangement with the National ICT Australia (NICTA). NICTA  supports around 60 PhD ICT students each year in Canberra and around 60 researchers who participate in projects of local, national and international significance.

These are some of the highlights of a busy first 18 months. To find out more, read Minister Barr’s full Tabling Statement.

To find out more about the ACT Government’s achievements against the 26 individual actions in Growth, Diversification and Jobs: A Business Development Strategy for the ACT view the 2013 Implementation Report.

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Local exporting excellence recognised

Twelve local businesses were recently recognised for their exporting excellence in this year’s ACT Chief Minister’s Export Awards. Presented on 26 September 2013 by ACT Chief Minister Katy Gallagher, the awards recognise the innovation, hard work and success of businesses, large and small, in reaching new markets through exporting their products or services. The awards highlight those companies who are contributing to the $1.3 billion worth of products and services being exported annually from the ACT.

Taking out the coveted ACT Exporter of the Year Award was Aspen Medical. This was the third consecutive year that the global healthcare solutions provider has one the overall award.

Aspen Medical was founded in Canberra in 2003 and provides healthcare in remote, challenging and under-resourced locations.  In 2004, Aspen Medical provided primary healthcare and surgery clinics to Australian Federal Police and Defence personnel in the Solomon Islands and has since expanded its operations to the UK, USA, Canada, Timor-Leste, Papua New Guinea, Afghanistan, the United Arab Emirates, Sri Lanka and Iraq.

In 2012-13 Aspen Medical’s exports grew by 16 percent to $44 million. Exports now account for close to 20 percent of the business’ worldwide turnover, which more than doubled from last year.

To further recognise the ACT exporting community, two new award categories were added to this year’s ACT Chief Minister’s Export Awards. The first of these, the Exporting to Asia Award, provided an opportunity for ACT businesses to be recognised for their outstanding international success in exporting to Asia. The award was won by IE Asia Pacific, a small business based in Canberra providing niche products, services and solutions that improve the detection capability for military Air Defence Radars and increase the safety of civil Air Traffic Control.

The Exporting Government Solutions Award, the second category to be added, provided the opportunity for ACT based government agencies and businesses that are exporting government solutions to be acknowledged. The winner of this category was the Royal Australian Mint, who’s exporting highlights included assisting Pacific Islander countries to acquire new circulating coins, eleven completed projects with global Mints and coin dealers, and engineering and producing the world’s first colour-printed curved coin.

In total, there were twelve categories in the 2013 ACT Chief Minister’s Export Awards. The category winners are:

  • Agribusiness: Inland Trading Co (Aust)
  • Business Services: Northrop Consulting Engineers
  • Creative Industries: Bearcage Pty Ltd
  • Education & Training: University of Canberra
  • Environmental Solutions: XP Solutions
  • Health & Biotechnology: Aspen Medical
  • ICT: Seeing Machines Limited
  • Infrastructure & Construction: Windlab
  • Small Business: eValua
  • Exporting Government Solutions: Royal Australian Mint
  • ACT Exporting to Asia: IE Asia Pacific
  • Emerging Exporter: QuintessenceLabs

Winners from the ACT awards (except for the Exporting Government Solutions and Exporting to Asia Award categories) will go on to be a national finalist at the 51st Australian Export Awards held in Melbourne in November.

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The challenge is on!

In our last newsletter, we featured an article on the ACT Government’s new initiative, the Digital Canberra Challenge, a competition aimed at engaging Canberra’s innovators and SMEs to help build and support a dynamic, healthy and prosperous Digital City for the 21st century.

Leading up to each round of the Challenge, people will have the opportunity to put forward unresolved business challenges relating to the delivery of government services – things that they think could be done faster, better, smarter or more efficiently.

The Digital Canberra Challenge Program Board to date has chosen two challenges:

Challenge 1:

Challenge: The process of gaining permits and approvals to run music and other cultural events, especially on public land, is long and complicated. Approvals have to be gained from different agencies, and organisations running multiple events have to go through this process each time

Outcome: An online permits and approvals service that allows people to submit all their applications online with guidance and checklists. Applicants would be able to monitor the progress of individual applications and be sent alerts if there is a problem.

Challenge 2:

Challenge: Currently booking driving tests can only be done over the phone or in person - inconvenient at best, and probably a waste of resources.

Outcome: A website which allows you to view driving test time slot availability, as well as book and pay for a driving test online.

The challenge is now on and the call is out for submissions answering one of the challenge briefs. If you produce the best solution for Canberra you could receive $12,500 in prize money!

Submissions are due 22 October 2013. To find out more visit the Digital Canberra Challenge website .

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Innovation Connect supports more local businesses

A number of Canberra based businesses have recently been awarded funding in the latest round of Innovation Connect (ICon) grants.

Innovation Connect, the ACT Government’s flagship innovation program, provides matched-funding grants of up to $50,000. These aim to assist early stage ACT businesses and entrepreneurs to accelerate the development of products and services through to commercialisation.

The program was established to encourage innovation and to assist in developing new companies and technologies in Canberra.
Since the program was established in 2008, 113 ACT businesses have been awarded funding support in excess of $2.8 million. This amount or more has also been contributed by the grant recipients in meeting their matched-funding requirement.

This was a highly competitive round of funding, with the successful recipients being:

  • Enabled Employment to develop a disability teleworking website;
  • Reposit Power Pty Ltd for the commercial scale deployment of a prototype enterprise hardware and software solution that manages distributed electricity storage to provide the essential grid services required to support increased renewable generation, cost savings and power system efficiency;
  • Wild Blue Ocean to develop MarineAlert, a smart device application that aims to improve and promote the conservation, sustainability and recreational use of, and accessibility to, Australia’s Commonwealth, State and Territory-based Marine Parks;
  • Feedback Loop Pty Ltd to develop a dashboard that will help businesses measure the benefits of promoting trusted testimonials on their website and on social media;
  • Geospatial Intelligence Pty Ltd to develop a contingency support application prototype called Geoint – SafeNet that combines sophisticated technology to provide information for travellers about the incidents that are happening in their vicinity;
  • Sembl to develop a game-based social learning platform for dialogic and network thinking;
  • La Confiance works Pty Ltd to develop a prototype online trust package to demonstrate how trust management works in a complex online business environment; and
  • MyHealthTest Pty Ltd to offer pathology tests for individuals to test, monitor and track their health and wellness from the convenience of their home. In collaboration with the John Curtin School of Medical Research at the ANU this project will undertake comparative analysis research to ensure the MyHealthTest dried blood spot test sample collection media will deliver comparative and acceptably precise results to that of current methods.

Visit the Innovation Connect page to find out more about the ICon program.

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Canberra gets inspired by TEDx

On 7 September, TEDx, an independently organised TED event, came to Canberra for the fourth year running. Each year the volunteer run event brings together great minds, new ideas and innovators, to share their ‘ideas worth spreading’. This year’s event was themed ‘Then. Now. Next’ and, in recognition of our Centenary, aimed to explore the significant developments of our city over the past 100 years and apply that knowledge to better understand what’s ahead.

As with previous years, TEDx Canberra 2013 External Link - opens in new window was a sold out event, with approximately 600 young (and young at heart!) Canberrans filling the Canberra Theatre to capacity. On the day the eclectic range of presenters, ranging from poets, social workers and even a technophile, through to musicians and a circus troupe alternated between entertaining and honing the social conscience.

Toby Wild, a ‘full stack developer’ enthused over the potential of the latest Samsung Smartphone, made the observation that the Smartphone’s processing power was an order of magnitude greater than the computer power used on the Apollo 11 moon landing.

Two of the speakers were downright inspirational – Tony Langer, a Detective Sergeant with the West Australian Police, described the millions of tonnes of high explosives left over from the Vietnam war that are still killing thousands of people in Indochina every year. In his holidays, and at his own expense, he travels to Cambodia to risk his life discovering and neutralising land mines. Jeannette Purkis is a successful artist, author and public servant and described how she overcame the twin obstacles of Asperger Syndrome and a mental health affliction to live a normal life. She appealed to the audience to respect diversity and accept people for who they are. Her message obviously hit a resonant chord as her conclusion was greeted by enthusiastic applause, whistles and cheers.

On a lighter note, the Poncho Circus, a group of young emerging artists coming out of the Warehouse Circus in Canberra, delighted the audience with amazing feats of human strength and agility, stunning choreography and innovative new ideas on traditional circus routines. Raus, aka Rory Stenning, also put forth his own unique brand of ‘experimental pop’ music with his computer augmented singing supported by electronic music.

In the breaks Anna Pino, Chief Executive Officer, Lighthouse Business Innovation Centre External Link - opens in new window fielded enquiries from a steady stream of participants. Perhaps we might see some start-ups resulting in the future!

Want to learn more about the presenters? You can read their bios and get their Twitter and website details here External Link - opens in new window.

Looking for inspiration? You can view previous TEDx talks on the TEDx Canberra External Link - opens in new window and the TEDx External Link - opens in new window YouTube Channels. 

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World class wines come to Canberra

This month close to 500 Rieslings from around the world will be on show as part of the 2013 Canberra International Riesling Challenge. Held from 7 to 12 October, the Riesling Challenge has grown from a local competition into a major, internationally-recognised wine show – one of the most significant events of its type in the Southern Hemisphere.

The first annual Canberra International Riesling Challenge was held in 2000 and attracted 137 entries from across Australia. Since then the Riesling Challenge has grown significantly, this year receiving 483 entries from seven wine-growing nations.

Ken Helm AM, Chair of the Canberra International Riesling Challenge said, “We have received entries from Australia, New Zealand, the USA, Germany, France, Canada and South Africa”.

“It is pleasing to see a great increase in the number of French entries – from two last year to 17 this year. The US went from 20 to 31. Perhaps the greater interest can be put down to the greater awareness of Canberra in the centenary year.”

There are a number of events being held throughout the week:

  • Seminar of Riesling Excellence
    9am – 1pm, Friday 11 October 2013
    The seminar features five leading wine experts who will dispel some myths and talk about the latest developments in wine-making and the wine industry.
  • Master Class
    2pm – 4pm, Friday 11 October
    Experts from four Riesling producing countries will provide an insight into what makes an excellent Riesling and how to get the best from a tasting.
  • Award Ceremony
    6.30pm, Friday 11 October
  • Trade and Public Tasting
    11am – 3pm, Saturday 12 October

Visit the Canberra International Riesling Challenge website External Link - opens in new window or contact (02) 6290 1505 to find out more about the events.

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Electric vehicle technology on show

On 12 October 2013, Civic will play host to the 2013 Canberra International Electric Vehicle Festival. The festival provides an opportunity to experience the latest electric vehicles and witness exciting developments in electric vehicle technology here in Canberra.

There will be a range of electric vehicles on show including converted electric cars and motor bikes, historical electric cars, and electric bicycles and personal mobility vehicles, as well as new infrastructure technology and services for electric cars, such as R&D exhibits and electric vehicle charging demonstrations.

The 2013 Canberra International Electric Vehicle Festival is a joint initiative of CanberraEV (Australian Electric Vehicle Association Inc.) and the ACT Electric Vehicle Council Inc.

Entry is free. To find out more visit the 2013 Canberra International Vehicle Festival website External Link - opens in new window.