Patrick Stafford Vic Government announces $17 million in SME grants in $110 million ICT action plan 14th Oct 2010

The Victorian Government has pledged over $110 million in new funding as part of its ICT Action Plan, including funding for SMEs in a number of grants and programs.

State ICT minister John Lenders announced the action plan at an industry function yesterday. He also used the occasion to pledge the State Government's support for the National Broadband Network, claiming each SME connected to a high-speed internet connection receives a $5,000 productivity savings.

The action plan consists of six elements –

  • supporting development of industry expertise,
  •  increasing the global profile of the Vic ICT industry,
  •  establishing VIC as the centre for ICT R&D,
  • using ICT to foster innovation,
  •  increasing skills and
  • establishing a productive broadband economy.

Lenders said yesterday the Government wants to increase the use of ICT within the state's economy, setting a number of benchmarks including the creation of 800 new ICT jobs each year.

"If we are re-elected, we have the action plan here to support the ICT industry," he said. "The Government's objectives are to increase the use of ICT across the entire economy, and contribute to economic growth and to sharpen Victoria's innovative edge."

Benefits for SMEs include $8 million for the Smart SMEs Innovation Commercialisation Program. This will include funding for the Regional Technology Commercialisation Program, which assists regional companies taking their products to national and international markets, helping develop business cases and obtaining funding.

Another $5 million will be provided to the Collaborative Internet Innovation Fund in order to support a second round of funding.

The Collaborative Internet Innovation Fund delivers grants of up to $500,000 to adopters of new technology so they can create new projects, and promote the use of that technology in internet-based activities.

Funds are matched by a ratio of 1:1 and can be spent on salary and costs for new staff, purchase of equipment or professional services. Businesses can read more about the project at cIIF Program Updates.

A second round of funding will be promoted for the Smart SMEs Market Validation Program. The program helps pre-commercial SMEs with R&D initiatives the opportunity to help develop technology solutions for Government.

Successful SMEs receive grants of up to $100,000 to undertake a feasibility study over three months, while further funding of up to $1.5 million can be provided to take a R&D project through to proof of concept.

Another $700,000 will also be provided to the Australian Information Industry Association to continue business development forums, including the CollabIT program which helps SMEs build relationships and network.

A further $550,000 with the Australian Interactive Media Industry Association will be used to hold business development forums and promote mobile technology.

Lenders also said another $4.1 million will be pledged towards an online publishing strategy, which will feature successful business models in digital publishing and journalism, along with supporting new businesses and applications "that allow the gathering and distribution of local content".

Another $2 million will also be used for the Government's digital media programs, which "encourage the development of digital media, console and online games".

Shaw also said the Victorian Government is hoping to recapture some of the publishing industry lost to Sydney. "We can recapture the national voice but in the online space," he said.

He said the Government is putting the finishing touches and details for the program will be released soon.

Another $1 million will be given to the ICT Trade Events program, which will help export-ready companies attend overseas trade fairs.

A further $33 million will be provided to the NICTA VRL to 204-15 to help improve research and development. Australian Industry Group Victorian director Tim Piper particularly approved of this announcement.

"It's not necessarily coming out of the Federal Government, where legislation being discussed is looking more at research than the development," he said. "We think both the 'R' and the 'D' are important for Australian businesses."

Lenders also said the Government will place a large focus on developing skills and post-secondary education for the ICT industry. The TAFE sector will be called upon to work with young ICT professionals and enhance VET qualifications.

He also said the Government is putting a large focus on enhancing broadband. He pledged another $20 million for the VicFibreLINKS program to help establish backbone links in regional areas including routes to Mildura and Warrnambool.

He also took the opportunity to welcome the NBN, saying that "the NBN is locked in, it's certain". He also said the "economics stand up" regarding the network, and stated that every new business signing up to high-speed broadband generates a $5,000 gain in productivity per year.

"We think the economics stand up," Lenders said. "If we are re-elected, we have the action plan here to support the ICT industry."

He said the state government will work with NBNCo. To exceed its minimum rollout obligations in Victoria and said it will help businesses and local governments track the progress of the rollout.

The Australian Information Industry Association welcomed the comments, saying it "applauds the minister and the Government for supporting the National Broadband Network".