Business Connect Newsletter

May 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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CBR Innovation Network achievements released

The CBR Innovation Network (CBRIN) has released its quarterly report for the January - March 2015 period, highlighting their achievements in working with the Canberra innovation ecosystem.

The CBRIN is an Australian-first collaboration between the ACT Government and five world-class research and education institutions – ANU, University of Canberra, NICTA, CSIRO and UNSW Canberra – and provides a central hub to connect, promote and accelerate innovation in the ACT.

Less than six months after launching, the CBRIN has already collaborated with the ACT innovation community to deliver some great results including a 121% membership growth for co-working space Entry29, supporting GRIFFIN Accelerator in raising to raise $300,000 for the Round Two investment pool, and preparing to launch an incubator program later this year.

Craig Davis, GRIFFIN Accelerator CEO and Director of the Capital Angels, said “In the last few months the CBR Innovation Network has energised the culture of innovation in Canberra, building an atmosphere of achievement and progress that is already benefiting network participants like GRIFFIN Accelerator”.

To find out more about the CBRIN’s achievements view the Overview and Highlights infographic External Link - opens in new window or the full quarterly report External Link - opens in new window.

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Message from the Chief Minister

Throughout the past few months the ACT Government has made a number of key announcements that highlight our ongoing work to enhance the Territory’s private sector. In April I was proud to announce that QantasLink – an internationally recognised major Australian company - has chosen to establish a maintenance base at Canberra Airport to service their entire fleet of Boeing 717 aircraft. This is a significant coup for the Territory and shows our ability to attract some of the world’s best companies to our region.

In the face of cuts to the ACT’s biggest employer – the Commonwealth public service - our clear strategy has been to diversify our economy and manage the impact of job losses in our city. The December 2014 APS Statistical Bulletin snAPShots identified that the Australian Government has cut nearly 16,000 jobs since June 2012, with 8,021 of those cuts made here in the Nation’s Capital. When combined with the cuts across other services the Abbott Government has made, such as millions of dollars in support from our health and community services sector and the threats made to the education sector, it has been challenging for the Territory to sustain growth and keep our economy ticking over.

Yet the effort by the ACT Government has helped keep the nation’s capital from falling into recession. Over the period that the 8,021 APS positions were lost, total employment across the economy only fell by 2,626 – suggesting that nearly 5,400 non-APS jobs were created during the same period.

The renewed commitment of my government to support our private sector through investment in capital infrastructure projects and our refusal to cut ACT Government services has made a significant contribution to our current economic position. Yet I want to see the government going even further to support non-APS sectors during these difficult times.

The ACT’s tertiary education sector is crucial to the long term growth of the city. One in nine Canberran’s either work or study at one of our tertiary education institutions, and it’s important that the government works closely with these organisations to enhance their capacity to grow. I recently travelled to Beijing to join ANU and the University of Canberra in promoting their institutions to one of the world’s biggest student markets. It was encouraging to see the close relationship ANU has developed with Peking University and the relationship UC has with Renmin University. These are important relationships that help build Canberra’s profile internationally. I look forward to working closely with the ANU, UC and our other education institutions to ensure the sector retains its value to the ACT and our economy in the months and years ahead.

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Government to work with small businesses to create innovation opportunities

ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr has outlined plans to establish a Small Business Research Partnerships Program. The program, which was announced as part of the Chief Minister's speech to the Canberra Business Chamber 2015 ‘State of the Territory’ Luncheon (view the Chief Minister’s full ‘State of the Territory’ speech), will see a proportion of government procurement funds allocated to working with our innovative local businesses.

The Chief Minister said "The program will allow our smart small businesses to assist government through practical and innovative solutions to common problems that can then be sold to other clients outside of the Territory".

"Similar models have been highly successful in the United States. I am confident that smart procurement can stimulate our small business sector and make the ACT a global leader in providing innovative services to government."

Sarah Pearson, CEO of the CBR Innovation Network, says government and business will benefit from this initiative.
“Programs like this will help the ACT Government source solutions that meet their specific needs, typically at lower cost than off-the-shelf options,” Dr Pearson said.

“This is crucial in helping our small businesses and entrepreneurs work with government, building their businesses and building Canberra’s reputation as a place that solves government challenges and exports those solutions.”

This initiative will be part of the ACT Government’s next Business Development Strategy. The Chief Minister recently reported to the Legislative Assembly that all 26 Business Development targets set in the previous strategy have been achieved. This included measures to attract foreign investment and skilled migrants, grow our export capabilities, partner with our tertiary education institutions to commercialise research and maximise the value of the visitor economy.

The Chief Minister said "My speech today also covered how the new Local Industry Advocate will work exclusively in the interests of the ACT business community to ensure work that can and should be done by local businesses stays in the ACT- building capability and economic activity in our city."

"The Advocate’s first job will be to work with local industry to identify improvements to government procurement processes. While the government will always get the best value for money for the community, it is important to do this in a way that creates opportunity for local business and continues the ACT Government’s renewal agenda."

"My address outlined how, going forward, the ACT Government will continue to drive greater economic self-reliance through investment in projects like Capital Metro, which is vital for economic activity and job creation in Canberra. The project will benefit the whole city by employing 3500 people in its construction phase alone, revitalising the Northbourne corridor and taking thousands of cars out of city traffic and car parks," said the Chief Minister.

"I also reiterated how education is critical to the future of investment and jobs in our city. Our higher education and trades training institutions are employers, exporters and investors, and they must flourish for our city’s economy to be strong. That’s why I have recently signed a Statement of Strategic Intent with the University of Canberra, outlining our shared commitment to development and growth of the University’s Bruce campus."

"This month the Government also passed the first of a suite of reforms in the Legislative Assembly that will enable $1 billion in investment, development, expansion and job creation on the UC campus and in the surrounding community.

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A Positive and Link Digital, winners of the Digital Canebrra Challenge

Digital Canberra Challenge award winners announced

Round Three of the Digital Canberra Challenge has been jointly won by local innovators APositive and Link Digital. The joint winners, which were each awarded $10,000 in prize money, were announced by ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr during an awards ceremony and innovation showcase held on 23 April 2015.

APositive, a design studio specialising in using augmented reality, was awarded for developing a digital art installation. Their innovative solution involved the creation of a unique soundscape at the Arboretum linked to the different forests that comprise the site.
Link Digital, an established digital agency within the government and commercial sector, took on the other Round Three challenge - developing a digital image and video library. Their solution to the challenge was recognised for its innovation in using open source and community supported tools.

The Digital Canberra Challenge is an ACT Government initiative to engage Canberra's brightest minds to help build and support a dynamic, healthy and prosperous Digital City for the 21st century. It is managed by the eGovernment Cluster, in partnership with NICTA, CollabIT and the Canberra Business Council.

The Chief Minister said about the challenge, "The Digital Canberra Challenge is an initiative which not only provides an opportunity for the ACT Government to think differently, but also harnesses the talent and creativity of our innovative SMEs and seeks to engage them in the design and development of digital solutions to improve public service delivery."

"Encouraging the public service to work collaboratively with these organisations will help grow the private sector here in the ACT. This is a priority for the government as we aim to reduce our reliance on the Commonwealth public service."

Since making the first call for challenges in August 2013, local designers and developers have collaborated with public servants to address real problems encountered by the ACT Government in doing business.

The Chief Minister said "I congratulate all of the participants in this round of the Digital Canberra Challenge and look forward to even more local innovators stepping up to the next challenge."

Calling all innovators!

Challenges for Round Four of the Digital Canberra Challenge have been announced!

Digital Canberra Challenge

If you have an innovative solution to either creating an Augmented Built Reality or a New Communications Platform for ACT Government Staff and Volunteers apply now! If your solution is successful you have the opportunity to be awarded up to $12,500 in prize money.

To find out more visit the Digital Canberra Challenge website External Link - opens in new window.

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ACT Scientist of the Year logo

Nominations open for inaugural ACT Scientist of the Year Award

Nominations are now open for the inaugural ACT Scientist of the Year Award.

The Award seeks to recognise the achievements of an ‘up-and-coming’ scientist who has significant potential to continue to achieve in their chosen field of research. It is an opportunity to showcase the contribution that Canberrans make to the world of science and innovation, both nationally and worldwide.

It will be presented for the first time in 2015, and will be open to individual scientists working in basic or applied research and science, in all fields of science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM). To be eligible scientists must also have finished their PhD within the last 10 years, and be conducting research in the ACT.

The winning scientist will receive a $30,000 prize and will become a science ambassador for the ACT by encouraging and inspiring young people to consider a career in science and promoting the ACT as a centre of knowledge and scientific research and innovation.

The winner will be announced during National Science Week in August 2015.

Nominations close 9 June 2015.

For more information, including eligibility criteria, visit the Scientist of the Year webpage External Link - opens in new window.

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Student participants at Hact

Canberra teens learn to code in innovative new event

130 High School students and 30 programmers, technologists and designers from around the ACT have come together for a three day digital technologies community event, hs.hact.io, over 17-19 April 2015.

The hs.hact.io event, which was organised by startup co-working space Entry 29, is a project-based learning approach to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) disciplines and entrepreneurship. The event was designed for students with all levels of experience: Beginners received mentoring and support as they developed their first website, mobile app, video game, 3D animation, or 3D printed object; whilst more advanced students used the three days to form teams to build something and compete for more than $7,500 in cash prizes.

The event was well received by ACT teachers and schools with Canberra Grammar School providing its new Snow Centre building as the venue for the inaugural event.

“We need more events like hs.hact.io which allow students to engage in practical projects beyond the classroom. At Canberra Grammar School we are proud to support this event which is an ideal use of our new Snow Centre building – emphasising collaboration, teamwork, and community,” said Information and Software Technology Teacher Matthew Purcell.

Matt Stimson, Event Lead and General Manager at Entry 29, said “You ask enough developers how they became passionate about technology and it often involves positive experiences and support during their formative years. A large component of this event exists for high schoolers interested in tech and unsure of how to get started with it”.

The hs.hact.io organisers raised over $17,500 in their crowdfunding campaign to cover the event costs and prizes. The crowdfunding effort not only went towards running the event, but will also be used to fund the development of materials to rollout the concept nationally to satellite venues in 2016.

“This inaugural event is going brilliantly and we’re already thinking of how to grow it and run a similar event for Primary Schools,” Stimson added.

Dr Sarah Pearson, CEO of the CBR Innovation Network and major sponsors of the event said “I only wish there were opportunities like this when I was going through school. We are extremely proud to be involved with hs.hact.io and we could not be more excited to support youth in the ACT. This event could be the start of an amazing journey for hundreds of young Canberrans..”

NICTA’s Digital Careers Office and Cogito Group, winner of the ACT Telstra Business Award in 2014 for Startup of the Year, also joined as event sponsors. Canberra startups like Madefor.me and game studios Cardboard Keep and Whalehammer Games have also supported the event.

To find out more visit the hs.hact.io website External Link - opens in new window.

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Securing jobs and investment for the ACT in a renewable energy economy

A new strategy to bring together industry and research sectors to accelerate the development of a renewable energy industry in the ACT has been launched by ACT Minister for the Environment Simon Corbell MLA.

“The ACT Government sees renewable energy as a tremendous opportunity, not only in terms of playing our part to address climate change and bring renewable energy to the people of Canberra, but also to create jobs, and to build a stronger, more diverse and robust ACT economy,” Minister Corbell said.

Focussing on solar, wind and energy storage, the Renewable Energy Industry Development Strategy will bring together a range of existing government renewable energy initiatives and facilitate the next generation of renewable energy technologies, including the creation of a renewable energy precinct and test berth facilities.

“The Strategy includes the $1.2million Renewable Energy Innovation Fund, which was developed as part of the ACT Government’s 200MW wind auction,” Mr Corbell said.

“This fund could be used in the future to provide competitive, project-specific grants or small-scale contracts to emerging ACT-based renewable energy businesses.”

In developing the strategy, the ACT Government has worked with and gained the support of a broad range of industry stakeholders spanning the research and training communities, industry, and the venture investment community.

“Through the 40MW solar and 200MW wind auctions, the ACT Government is on track to meet its target of achieving 90% renewable energy by 2020, and bring renewable energy to the people of Canberra at the lowest possible price,” Mr Corbell said.

"We have also helped position Canberra as a leader in the renewable energy sector and this strategy is designed to ensure that we continue to be a national leader in this sphere.

“There are significant economic benefits to be had from being early adopters and I want the ACT to benefit from the jobs and investment that a renewable energy economy has to offer.”

View the Renewable Energy Industry Development Strategy External Link - opens in new window.