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$158 million for Building on IT Strengths (BITS)

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The Government has taken a major step to promote innovation and commercial success in the in formation industries by encouraging new high technology firm creation and growth, the Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts. Senator Richard Alston said today.


"$158 million from the sale of the next 16.66% of Telstra will be allocated to the much needed Building on IT Strengths (BITS) program, the Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts. Senator Richard Alston said today.


Of this amount:


* $78m will be used to establish incubator centres for small to m edium enterprises in the IT&T sector;

* $40m will be available nationally to fund test-beds. experimental networks and other information infrastructures; and

* $40m will be allocated to Tasmania for the ‘Intelligent Island’, to develop further an internationally competitive IT&T sector in the state.


‘Australia must increase the number of innovative SMEs being created in the information industries', Senator Alston said.


‘Australians have a record for being innovative and creative, and the new incubator cen tres will assist new and aspiring entrepreneurs to turn their technology ideas into successful, globally competitive businesses.


‘As well as providing much needed management, financial and technical advice, the program will provide assistance towards the costs of start-up firms and concept development funding for multimedia and other product and service projects. Projects receiving a grant will also need to have capital provided by private investors who can contribute to building the new firm or project.


‘The incubator centres will be a hub of support and information for new and growing firms. They will stimulate the formation of clusters of innovative, dynamic information technology firms and promote innovation and new skills in industry and the research community. The centres will be established in each mainland state and territory. It is anticipated that one will also be established in Tasmania as part of ‘Intelligent Island’.


Senator Alston also highlighted the advanced network test-bed component of the BITS initiative.


'Test or experimental networks, systems and similar shared infrastructures are necessary for leading edge innovation in both SMEs and R&D organisations. They are essential for stimulating new generation designs, refining and testing those designs and ensuring the compatibility of any new products, service delivery regimes and new on-line applications.


'The technologies involved in advanced communications infrastructure are changing rapidly and Australia must ensure it is well positioned to exploit these new developments which will underpin the information age over the next decade and beyond.


'Through BITS, the Government will assist in funding foundation test-bed facilities for the next generation networks (very high capacity networks) and the generation after that (all optical networks). It is envisaged that the program will also support digital transmission trial test-beds and the development of international broadband R&D links. As such test-beds are expensive, the Government will work collaboratively with industry and its State and Territory counterparts in the establishment of these facilities.’


Senator Alston said he was particularly enthused about the fact that Tasmania would receive an additional $40 million towards establishing Australia’s most economically disadvantaged State as an Intelligent Island’.


'Intelligent Island will build on existing Tasmanian Government initiatives like Service Tasmania and the research capacity of Tasmania’s tertiary education infrastructure.


‘Intelligent Island’ will be overseen by a council comprising representatives of the Commonwealth and Tasmanian Governments, Tasmanian industry and Tasmania’s tertiary education sector. The council will develop a detailed implementation plan to give effect to the program’s objectives. Once the plan is approved by the Commonwealth and the Tasmanian Governments, the council will oversee allocation of the program funds.


It is envisaged that the elements of intelligent Island’ will include a business incubator program, funding for IT research and training, multimedia and e-commerce centres of excellence and training, assistance in the commercialisation of R&D, and investm ent in bandwidth infrastructure.


'The Government considers that the BITS package will do much to replicate in Australia the dynamic, exciting environment that is so important to the success of places such as Silicon Valley. It will bring together the people and the resources that are needed to grow the information industries sector, a sector which is key to the future success of all advanced economies,’ Senator Alston said.


Media Contact: Terry O’Connor, Minister’s Office 02 6277 7480




20 June 1999



[Attachment to hard copy:

Fact sheet. Building on IT Strengths (BITS), [3p]

Held in DPL's Information Files]



jk  1999-06-22  10:58