news The Victorian Coalition Government has launched an $11 million ‘Digital Futures Fund’, which is aimed at giving a substantial boost to cutting edge Information and Communication Technology (ICT) projects in the state.
Minister for Technology, Gordon Rich-Phillips, addressing the Australian Information Industry Association Forum 2012, said: “The Digital Futures Fund will encourage Victorian companies, researchers and end users to work together to develop ICT solutions to address major business challenges. It gives Victorian businesses a unique opportunity to work with other businesses and organisations to create new, innovative technologies for their day-to-day operations.”
In the latter part of 2010, ZDNet reported that the State ICT Minister John Lenders in the then Victorian Labor government had outlined a strategy that would roll out ICT infrastructure across the state. Taking it on from there, almost a year on, ZDNet reported that Premier Ted Baillieu and Minister for Technology Gordon Rich-Phillips of the new Coalition government were fully committed to powering local ICT strategy.
A communiqué in ITWire at that time said that the $85 million plan fulfilled the Coalition government’s election commitment. They had also tentatively outlined various ICT initiatives which included setting aside $11 million for a Digital Futures Fund to support collaborative emerging technology projects in the ICT sector. The Victorian Government was determined to support continuing growth, development and global competitiveness in Victoria’s ICT sector, and an important objective of the fund was to promote and disseminate project information as well as ICT-enabled innovation across the state’s economy.
The DFF is a key initiative of Victoria’s Technology Plan for the Future – Information and Communication Technology. This $85 million plan was meant to promote ICT-enabled innovation as well as support Victoria’s ICT sector.
According to a statement issued last week, Rich-Phillips believes the Digital Futures Fund to be a catalyst for increasing the productivity of Victorian businesses, with the initiative todrive growth and increase competitiveness through collaborative projects harnessing the benefits of ICT. The Digital Futures Fund would help generate synergy between Victorian companies, researchers, and users to create and develop ICT solutions for business challenges. Rich-Phillips said that under the first round, the government was looking to commit a total of between $4 million and $5 million to successful projects.
According to government agency Multimedia Victoria, the Digital Futures Fund will provide financial support to collaborative projects through an open, competitive, and merit-based process. Projects eligible for the fund will involve a collaboration between at least two Victorian small to medium enterprises that employed fewer than 200 employees and be designed to instigate solutions to identified shared problems or challenges. Successful projects would receive funding of up to $500,000.
Expressions of interest for the Digital Futures Fund will close at 2pm on Thursday April 12th, 2012. More information, including eligibility criteria and application forms, is available online. Applications that reflected areas of strategic importance to Victoria such as data mining and analytics, cloud computing and cyber security would be given preference.
This fund appears to be substantially different from the normal startup-type funds which we see government invest in — being more aimed at collaborations between small to medium businesses rather than purely at helping get a startup off the ground. It will be fascinating to see what sorts of initiatives the Government funds, and to what extent their outcomes will be applicable to the industry in general, rather than simply aiding the recipients’ own business interests.
In a general sense it’s great to see Victoria investing in these kinds of areas, and the investment is part of a renewed interest in technology industry outcomes from state governments across the eastern coast of Australia — Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria (although, of course Victoria has invested in this area through Multimedia Victoria and other avenues for many years). It shows a maturation of politicians’ understanding of the importance of the technology sector to Australia.