Australian Information Industry Association

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Innovation could add $6 billion to the economy but we need look beyond startups: Microsoft report

4:24PM | Tuesday, 15 April

Microsoft has today released a report calling for an urgent review of how the Australian innovation ecosystem works, in order to make the most of the burgeoning tech innovation movement.   Joined-Up Innovation outlines seven steps Australia can take to boost the fragmented innovation workforce.   The recommendations included breaking down silos within the innovation community, fixing slow-moving processes, improving knowledge sharing, proactive upskilling programs and encouraging mobility.   The third recommendation of the seven was to “look beyond startups” when it comes to innovation, as a vibrant and productive innovation system needed to transcend just young businesses.   This is despite the fact the report defined innovation as new businesses built around breakthrough ideas.   The fourth recommendation, transforming our culture, is one the Australian startup ecosystem has been campaigning about for years.   The report includes a number of cultural obstacles that are already preventing our innovation ecosystem from operating as smoothly as it could.   “These include low acceptance of business failures, which can make potential; innovators reluctant to launch ventures for fear of harming their reputations,” the report finds.   This fear of failure seems to emerge early, with president of the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering Alan Finkel claiming the flow from university into startups is a pressure point.   “We’ve cut it off at the knees by having this tendency to think it’s a failure if you leave university and go into industry – and it’s a double failure if you go from university to a startup and the startup isn’t a successful one.”   The report also cited either the ‘tall poppy syndrome’ or ‘fear of being placed on BRW’s Rich List’ may be having a net result of few equivalents of Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg or Microsoft’s Bill Gates.   The report was created from roundtable discussions of over 15 innovation experts including Microsoft Australia’s managing director Pip Marlow, Commercialisation Australia’s Doron Ben-Meir, Australian Information Industry Association’s Suzanne Campbell, ATP Innovations’ Hamish Hawthorn and consultant Sandy Plunkett.   In a statement, Marlow says Australia had amazing strengths but untapped potential.   “But if we want to maintain – and preferably improve – our competitive position, we need to reinvent our innovation ecosystem for the information age rather than sticking with models developed in the industrial age,” Marlow says.   The report also included new findings from PricewaterhouseCoopers that demonstrate how equipping Australia’s significant small to medium sized business community with greater tech skills could increase GDP by nearly $6 billion (0.4%).   Image: Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella.

Commercialisation Australia freeze has negative impacts beyond limiting available capital

4:14AM | Thursday, 10 April

The freezing of the federal government-backed venture capital grants has been met with widespread concern in the startup and ICT community, but the full impact of the freeze goes beyond the decline in available capital for Australian startups, according to a partner at the One Ventures fund.   Anne-Marie Birkill told StartupSmart the Australian startup ecosystem could see a reduction in the rigour invested in business planning and reporting that is required when applicants submit funding proposals to Commercialisation Australia’s grants program, which has been suspended ahead of the May federal budget.   “We all hope the grants will be reintroduced in some form as they provide an incredibly important leveraging factor,” Birkill says. “We’re very strong in our views that we’d like to see Commercialisation Australia continue.”   The biggest issue for Birkill is the removal of a major business planning opportunity. She says even the process of writing the applications can bring insights to a business they’ll use for years to come.   “The process really does help bridge another part of the early stage commercialisation gap in terms of access to mentoring, knowledge and skills but, critically, it also makes you reflect on your business, plan your projects and think about which targets you can hit and by when,” she says.   As a venture capital investor, Birkill says having a good business plan is essential to any business’s viability.   “One of the myths we need to explode is the idea of the static business plan. You don’t just write it and leave it there; you need to be constantly working on it. It’s a fluid and malleable document,” she says.   In response to a number of comments made in a submission to the Financial System Inquiry by the Federal Department of Innovation, Birkill says the Australian venture capital scene has improved in recent years but is far from fixed.   “Companies need less capital to launch and the relative explosion of incubators, accelerators and syndicated angel networks means there is much more capital available, but the pipeline does get broken at series A and beyond.”   Birkill’s comments come as the peak body of the ICT industry, the Australian Information Industry Association, has published an open letter to Minister for Industry Ian Macfarlane and Treasurer Joe Hockey calling for urgent revision of the freeze.

Leading tech alliance calls for urgent action to unfreeze Commercialisation Australia

4:58AM | Thursday, 10 April

The Australian Information Industry Association has written an open letter raising urgent concerns about the freezing of Commercialisation Australia to Minister for Industry Ian MacFarlane and Treasurer Joe Hockey.   Commercialisation Australia is a venture capital initiative of the Federal Government. Over the last five years, they’ve invested over $200 million in early stage companies.   A freeze on the grants and review was announced in late March.   AIIA is the peak representative body and advocacy group for the ICT industry in Australia. It includes over 400 tech company organisations.   Here is the letter from CEO Suzanne Campbell in full:  It is with urgency that I write to you on behalf of the Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA) in relation to the current review of Commercialisation Australia funding. AIIA has been active in advocating the need for a supportive national eco-system to facilitate innovation and encourage and support new business development – particularly in light of the increasingly competitive global digital economy. Commercialisation Australia, together with arrangements such as Employee Share Options, R&D tax incentives, venture capital and crowd sourced funding initiatives are critical to this eco-system. With uncertainty across many of these issues at present, business confidence in Australia’s innovation and business support system is at serious risk. Commercialisation Australia plays a critical role in supporting the growth of Australia’s future business capability.  The support it provides through funding and access to business and mentoring networks is a key element of the business building process for Australian companies, entrepreneurs, researchers and inventors looking to commercialise innovative intellectual property. In the last four years, Commercialisation Australia has assisted some 503 Australian companies.  On average, for every dollar of grant funds invested in the program, two dollars of private sector capital was invested subsequent to companies being awarded a grant. The leverage effect generated by the program and, in particular, how Commercialisation Australia has provided critical mass deal flow to both domestic and international investors looking for early stage opportunities is clear. Without the support of Commercialisation Australia, companies that have attracted funding would not have been able to commercialise their intellectual property and attract investment. While Commercialisation Australia is important in assisting businesses from all sectors, the fact that some 50 per cent of companies supported by them over the last 4 years were utilizing ICT in their new product and service development is of particular relevance to the ICT sector. The role of ICT driven businesses, especially new, innovative companies that have the potential to drive Australia’s export capability and international competitiveness is imperative to Australia’s ability to compete in a global economy.  Commercialisation Australia is a critical element of the overarching eco-system that Australia needs to drive innovation and business growth.  The future of Commercialisation Australia must be guaranteed to maintain the confidence of existing and aspiring early entry businesses. Members have advised that as of March 2014 Commercialisation Australia is not accepting new applications or requests for funding extensions. I understand this includes requests formerly accepted by Commercialisation Australia for assessment prior to March 2014, and that the decision to review all grant spending across the Department of Industry was made last year. Notwithstanding this decision Commercialisation Australia has continued to canvas for new project submissions until, as recently as February 2014.   As a consequence members have outlaid considerable time and expense preparing submissions for grant assistance and developing commercialisation plans.  In planning for their growth in this way and to manage their limited resources they have forgone shorter term business opportunities.  The fact that no public announcement was made by the Government that grants were suspended has created unnecessary pressure for entrepreneurs who have applied significant investment in good faith, to a process Government had already decided to suspend. This damage will be multiplied across the business eco-system overall should Commercialisation Australia cease to operate. I am seeking open and transparent assurance from the Government that it remains committed to the continuing operation of Commercialisation Australia and that this includes the full scope of activities and support it currently provides.   Yours sincerely, Suzanne Campbell chief executive officer Australian Information Industry Association

Start-ups welcome federal government consultation on employee share schemes

1:45AM | Wednesday, 22 January

The federal government has announced a new round of consultation on employee share schemes amid ongoing concerns the rules around the schemes are holding back the start-up sector.   The consultation will focus on changes made in 2009 to the treatment of employee share schemes and their impact on businesses, as well as barriers to offering schemes and the costs surrounding them.   “The government is committed to addressing the concerns that have been raised by startups in relation to Employee Share Schemes,” the Treasury’s website says, inviting comment on the schemes.   Start-ups have complained that under the current rules, shares offered to employees as part of their remuneration are taxed when they’re awarded, rather than later, making it harder for cash-strapped early-stage companies to offer competitive pay packages to attract talent.   Pollenizer co-founder and Muru-D accelerator mentor Mick Liubinskas, who’s been lobbying the government for changes for years, told StartupSmart the consultation was a step forward, but start-ups need the issue resolved.   “The fact it’s more consultation, not a response, is disappointing. We’ve been discussing this for 18 months and it’s been an issue for five years,” Liubinskas says.   “Us entrepreneurs are an impatient bunch so we’ll just keep getting on with building our businesses but at least it’s progressing.”   Treasury said it would hold two weeks of direct consultation with start-up stakeholders from January 28 in Melbourne, Sydney and via teleconference.   Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA) president Suzanne Campbell told StartupSmart it was an encouraging announcement for tech start-ups and businesses of all sizes, as well as wider Australia.   “I’m pleased the Coalition government is moving speedily towards a solution to address this critical issue for Australian businesses, especially for start-ups and small-to-medium businesses in the ICT sector,” Campbell says.   “I am disappointed by the tight timeframe because it suggests a lack of regard for all of the participants, but it’s still good news.”   Campbell adds it’s a good sign that the dream of many tech-smart people to “live in Australia but work in the world” is getting closer.   “This announcement means we’re getting closer to finally achieving the change we need to become comparable at least,” she says.   “We’re all in global war for talent, for the best ideas and most creative businesses. We want these businesses to be firmly anchored in Australia, not just because it’s a great place to live but because it’s a great place to work, and will hopefully become a great place to build globally competitive businesses.”   Those interested in being part of the discussion can register via the links below the statement, with expressions of interest to take part closing January 24.

2013 iAward winners to showcase in Hong Kong

3:10AM | Friday, 15 March

Winners of the 2013 iAwards, now open for entries, will have the opportunity to compete with businesses from across the Asia-Pacific at the 2013 Asia Pacific ICT Awards in Hong Kong.

Victorian start-up Axiflux motors on to win national iAward

8:47AM | Friday, 10 August

A Victorian start-up is among the winners of the 2012 national iAwards, after creating the world’s first modular, real-time, software-reconfigurable electric motor and generator.

iAward winners recognised for “cutting edge” ICT innovation

7:47AM | Friday, 6 July

An automated health monitoring system for the Sydney Harbour Bridge has been announced as a winner of this year’s iAwards, along with a host of other innovative technologies nationwide.

From tech newbie to industry advocate

5:05AM | Friday, 18 May

Taking an information and communications technology (ICT) company from start-up phase to market leader is no easy task – particularly if you come from a non-technical background – but Maree Adshead made it happen.

Government looks to spark home-based business surge with National Telework Week

3:01AM | Monday, 11 March

The Federal Government will stage National Telework Week in November in a bid to highlight the benefits of working from home, on the back of the National Broadband Network rollout.

99dresses and rome2rio among iAward winners

8:40AM | Monday, 8 August

Online start-ups 99dresses and rome2rio have been honoured at the 2011 iAwards, while Sajari and Calibre Hosting were among the winners of this year’s MEGA NSW event.

Small firms to benefit from R&D changes

6:24AM | Thursday, 16 June

Small businesses will be the main beneficiaries of the Federal Government’s $1.8 billion R&D Tax Credit, thanks to a request by the Greens that small firms receive quarterly cash incentives.

Start-ups’ Federal budget wish list

5:08PM | Monday, 9 May

The 2011 Federal budget, set to be unveiled this evening, isn’t, alas, expected to deliver a windfall of goodies for start-up businesses.

FBT overhaul targets company cars

5:17AM | Friday, 6 May

Thousands of employers are set to overhaul their fringe benefits tax affairs after next week’s budget due to a Gillard Government reform that will result in a budget saving of $950 million over four years.

iiNet copyright battle set for High Court

3:50AM | Friday, 25 March

The Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft will continue its legal battle against ISP iiNet over copyright infringement, seeking leave to appeal its case to the High Court.

Labor says NBN will take nine years to construct

12:30AM | Monday, 20 December

The National Broadband Network will take more than nine years to construct and will have $5.8 billion revenue by 2021, the long-awaited business plan into the network has revealed.

NSW to make it easier for IT firms to sell to government

12:14PM | Sunday, 12 December

The NSW Government will attempt to make it reduce the red tape and costs associated with selling IT goods and services to government by amending an agreement known as Procure IT.

Firms granted delay to national consumer laws

12:36AM | Monday, 6 December

Businesses in the retail and telecommunications sectors have been granted a 12-month transition period to adjust to the new Australian Consumer Law, which comes into effect on January 1, 2011.

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