Business Connect Newsletter

March 2015

This newsletter provides business news and events on the programs and activities of the Innovation, Trade and Investment branch, part of the ACT Chief Minister, Treasury and Economic Development Directorate.

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Government delivers on strategy to assist local business

The ACT Government has continued to deliver on our goal to assist and promote the ACT’s private sector, with the successful implementation of all 26 initiatives the government committed to in the 2012 Business Development Strategy.

The strategy outlined a vision for a growing Canberra economy, building on a commitment to private sector growth and jobs. To achieve this, the government sought to foster the right business environment, support business investment and accelerate business innovation.

Some of the key achievements of the strategy, as outlined in the Business Development Strategy Implementation Report the Chief Minister tabled in the Assembly today include:

  • the establishment of the CBR Innovation Network;
  • the establishment of Invest Canberra;
  • the successful launch of the CBR brand;
  • the continuing commitment to regulatory reform and red tape reduction;
  • continuing taxation reform, including significantly reducing the number of companies that have payroll tax obligations;
  • the government’s commitment to the development of the visitor economy; and
  • the government’s commitment to the continued development of the higher education and research sector as a key to the further diversification of the ACT’s economy.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr said" The ACT’s economy continues to perform extremely well, despite the job cuts inflicted on the ACT’s economy by the Federal Government. This is a clear indication that our economic development approach is paying dividends for the economy".

"But while we have achieved all the goals that we set our self in 2012, we realise that more needs to be done. In the next couple of months, I will be releasing an update to the Business Development Strategy that will set new actions and goals."

"The government will continue to help build an attractive business environment here in the ACT- bringing interstate and international investment to the capital. Promoting our exporting companies in overseas markets and driving the development of innovative companies and new entrepreneurs will be crucial to create a sustainable economy in the territory for our future generations."

View the 2015 Business Development Strategy Implementation Report.

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Message from the Chief Minister: Industry Advocate to help promote local business

In the first sitting week of the ACT Legislative Assembly for 2015, I announced the government’s latest reform to help support our business sector: the introduction of a Local Industry Advocate to make sure that local businesses get a fair go in government procurement of goods, services and capital works.

Part of the Local Industry Advocate’s role will be to work with government directorates to ensure that work that can be done by local businesses stays in the region, building capability and economic activity in our city.

Local industry has told me they don’t need special advantages. Rather, they want a level playing field when they compete for government contracts.

I am pleased that the industry stakeholders with whom I have consulted have been very positive about the new role of Local Industry Advocate. They have provided feedback that this reform will improve business confidence, and, as we know, improved confidence is an important economic indicator. When businesses are more confident, they are more likely to invest and employ staff.

The first job for the Local Industry Advocate will be to work with local industry to recommend where improvements can be made to government procurement processes. 

In particular, I would like the Advocate to identify areas where requests for tender, policies and even legislation are geared to larger companies. This makes it more difficult for smaller, local firms, which might have more innovative solutions to offer. I want to change this.

This announcement forms part of a suite of reforms the ACT Government is implementing to assist local businesses.  As we continue to implement these reforms, I hope to hear feedback from the sector on how the government can continue to support the local business in the capital.

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Student internship program to foster long term relationships with Shenzhen

A new Canberra-Shenzhen Innovation Intern Exchange Program, which aims to bring together future innovation leaders from Canberra and Shenzhen in order to foster long term collaborative relationships, has been launched by Chief Minister Andrew Barr.

The Canberra-Shenzhen Innovation Intern Exchange Program is the first education outcome of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed between the ACT Government and Shenzhen last year.

It will give two students from Canberra the opportunity to travel to Shenzhen and two Shenzhen based students to come to Canberra in order to develop their leadership skills in their chosen field and as future ambassadors for the two cities.

The program will also develop the interns’ understanding of cultures and give them the chance to learn the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) practices and innovation systems of the two cities in some of the most innovative companies and organisations in the world.

The ACT Government is committed to promoting our impressive tertiary institutions nationally and internationally and supporting them to grow and attract students to the capital, which in turn supports jobs in the ACT economy.

The internship placements for Canberra students are expected to take place in Shenzhen in mid 2015 for four to eight weeks in duration. The ACT Government will provide funding support for the placements, including the cost of airfares and living expenses.

Applications for the new student intern exchange program between Canberra and Shenzhen are now open and Canberra tertiary students with an interest in innovation and entrepreneurship are encouraged to apply.

Students need to be studying full time, be Australian citizens and currently enrolled in second year or higher or have graduated within one year from a Canberra-based tertiary institution

Applications close 6 April 2015. For more information visit the Canberra-Shenzhen Innovation Intern Exchange Program webpage.

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Local entrepreneurs and business startups get helping hand

Applications are currently open for the 2015 GRIFFIN Accelerator program.  This is a 3 month intensive program run by a group local entrepreneurs who invest in, host, teach and mentor selected startups to create successful businesses.

The GRIFFIN Accelerator has already completed one very successful program last year with all five participating start up companies receiving investment offers from around Australia. The 2015 GRIFFIN program will be bigger than 2014, with early planning to support up to 10 new innovative business startups. Up to $300,000 worth of private venture capital will be invested into this year’s selected teams.

In opening the 2015 GRIFFIN Accelerator program Chief Minister Andrew Barr said "The ACT Government has placed support for business innovation centrally in its economic development agenda. We know that business innovation and entrepreneurship are essential to expanding the city’s economic base, diversifying our economy and creating new jobs for the future. Our policies and programs to in this area have been successfully guided by Growth Diversification and Jobs: A Business Development Strategy for the ACT".

"I am delighted the ACT Government has been able to play a role in the establishment of the GRIFFIN  Accelerator through administrative funding support in 2014, and in 2015 through our support for the CBR Innovation Network".

Innovators and entrepreneurs are encouraged to apply for the GRIFFIN accelerator’s three month program supported by the CBR Innovation Network. For more information visit the GRIFFIN Accelerator website External Link - opens in new window.

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Digital Canberra Challenge

Do you ever look around our city and think that we can do things better, faster, smarter, or more efficiently?

Have you ever wanted to put issues directly to the Government and see if someone has a solution?

The Digital Canberra Challenge (DCC) is currently inviting all Canberrans to get involved in thinking about how to improve our city and get involved in helping our Government do things better, faster or more efficiently.

How does it work?

Canberrans are invited to put forward challenges they think the Government can improve on through the use of digital technology. The best two of these are then chosen and the ACT innovation community is invited to put forward their solutions. The top two innovator teams become the competitors who then have twelve weeks to develop a prototype solution and a case study. The teams are then judged with the winner receiving $12,500 and the runner-up $7,500.

What’s been happening so far?

The DCC started in 2013 and runs a new challenge every 6 months. We’re currently nearing the end of round 3 and round 4 will start soon.

There has been a diverse range of challenges so far, from making it easier to book ACT Government services (like road tests) to creating an app for patients and visitors to use while visiting The Canberra Hospital.

This round the challenges are developing a digital public art installation and creating a whole of government image and video library that both the Government and public can access.

How do I get involved?

Do you have an idea? If you have an idea to put forward submit a few sentences explaining the situation, the opportunity for improvement and what you want to see achieved on the Digital Canberra website External Link - opens in new window. If your challenge gets picked, you’ll receive a Great Idea award. If your challenge isn’t picked this round, don’t worry, it will continue to be considered for future rounds.

Are you an innovator? Make sure you keep up to date with the DCC and consider applying if you have a solution to one of the challenges. The challenge will provide you with a fantastic opportunity to get to work directly with a Government agency, to build connections within the innovator community and develop a solution to a real problem.

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Discovery Translation Fund 2.0 Launched

Researchers from the Australian National University (ANU) and the University of Canberra now have access to additional funding to assist them in turning their discoveries into real-world applications.

The jointly funded Discovery Translation Fund (DTF 2.0), managed by ANU Connect Ventures, offers researchers whose work shows great potential for commercialisation access of up to $50,000 in support funding. In addition successful recipients will receive the skills, networks and experienced support needed to translate exploration based research into economic and social impact.

DTF 2.0 has a total pool of $3 million over three years, and will build on the success of the first round of DTF, which was an initiative of the ANU and the ACT Government. Since 2011, DTF has assisted more than 30 projects take work from the lab to the world, in areas such as water and energy conservation in domestic settings, miniaturisation of dielectric materials for use in supercapacitors and work on therapeutics targeting breast cancer recurrence.

“The Discovery Translation Fund has proven to be a crucial element of the region’s innovation pipeline,” said Nick McNaughton, CEO of ANU Connect Ventures.

“Canberra’s evolution as a hub of entrepreneurship has been given a boost recently with the establishment of the CBR Innovation Network, GRIFFIN Accelerator and Entry 29 co-working space. The Discovery Translation Fund has been essential in seeding these activities, and the DTF 2.0 will ensure that the outstanding work being done at ANU and the University of Canberra will continue to play a prominent role.”

University of Canberra Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Frances Shannon said the program is a great opportunity for those who are thinking about making the most of their research through a commercial venture.

“Many researchers reach a point after making their discovery where they need some assistance in taking the next big step. DTF 2.0 will set them on the right path, giving them some much needed financial assistance and hopefully making all the difference between great research and a viable business venture,” Professor Shannon said.

ANU Pro-Vice Chancellor (Innovation) Professor Mick Cardew-Hall said the program would help turn innovative ideas into reality, and will continue to be a key contributor to demonstrating the commercial impact of research.

“Proof of concept funding is essential for bridging the gap between a discovery and its application, but a program such as DTF 2.0 also establishes a targeted focus for project development, ensuring research is applied where the market and community will see greatest value” Professor Cardew-Hall said.

DTF 2.0 funding grants are awarded competitively, must have identifiable commercial potential and be completed within 12 to 18 months.

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Government funding to support science, technology, engineering, and mathematics internships

Many of the fastest growing occupations now require skills in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and the ACT Government is committed to attracting and developing a skilled workforce to meet this demand.

As part of this commitment, the ACT Government is offering financial support to assist businesses in offering paid internships to local undergraduate students studying in STEM fields. Through the STEM 4 Digital Business Internship program, grants of $7,500 are available to reimburse up to 75% of wages and other costs associated with offering internships of 12 weeks full-time equivalent duration.

The first round of the program was launched in August and supported ten internships in businesses around the ACT. Brad Armstrong, Senior Consultant and Business Partner at Barmco Mana Partnership, one of the first-round grant recipients, described the benefits of the program to his business: “The program removed the financial risk of hiring an intern and the successful candidate has added value to our business through his contribution on real projects.  We have also enjoyed the opportunity to give back to the next generation of students by providing mentoring on the skills needed to run a business and build a STEM career.”

The second round of the program is now open and up to seven grants are still available. Applications from eligible businesses must be submitted by 17 April 2015 for internships commencing prior to 1 July 2015.

To find further information and apply for funding, please visit our STEM 4 Digital Business Internship page.

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"We Are CBR" resources

Since turning 100, Canberra has entered a new phase. There’s a genuine pride for what we’ve achieved so far and real excitement for the brilliant possibilities that lie ahead. If you’d like to tap into Canberra’s growing momentum, the Brand Canberra team have developed a range of free materials that you can download and display for your business or organisation.

Whether you’re a local business, sporting group or community organisation, this is your opportunity to build on our city’s growing momentum by downloading and displaying our range of free CBR window stickers, logos, email signatures and more.

Just choose the colour that best complements your brand and tap into Canberra’s growing sense of pride and passion.

Visit the We Are CBR website to download your resource pack External Link - opens in new window.

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