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Building Australia's ICT capabilities.

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11 May 2004

The Australian Government will continue to support the development of new and innovative information and communications technology (ICT) companies with a $57 million extension of funding for the ICT Incubators and Advanced Networks programmes.

This new funding will be provided as part of the new Backing Australia's Ability - Building Our Future Through Science and Innovation package.

There are currently more than 22,000 ICT businesses operating in Australia, directly employing about a quarter of a million people, and ICT production is equivalent to nearly eight per cent of Australia's GDP.

Given the significant contribution these companies will play in Australia's economic future, there is a continuing need to improve the availability of finance and support for fledgling ICT companies.

The ICT Incubator Programme addresses this by providing start-up ICT companies with incubation services such as seed capital, business coaching and advice, mentoring and introductions to broader industry and financing networks.

An additional $36 million will extend the programme for four years from 2004-05 to 2007-08, bringing total funding for the ICT Incubators Programme to $122 million since 1999-2000. Funding will be provided to a number of the existing ICT incubator centres across Australia to improve their sustainability, enabling them to continue to identify and support the development of high growth ICT start-ups.

The Advanced Networks Programme (ANP) supports high capacity and experimental networks to enable research and development of network technologies and applications, such as e-health, e-science and film post-production. The ANP will receive an additional $21 million to extend its projects for three years from 2004-05 to 2006-07, bringing total funding to $60 million since the programme began in 1999-2000.

Two ANP projects, CeNTIE and GrangeNet, have already built very high-speed (10 gigabits per second) optic fibre networks linking research institutions in Perth, Melbourne, Canberra, Sydney and Brisbane -

the first such networks in the southern hemisphere.

The projects have also developed applications such as a virtual critical care unit - now under trial in New South Wales - which enables patients in regional hospitals to receive immediate help from specialists in a city hospital.

The third project, m.Net, is an advanced wireless network in Adelaide that enables research into wireless network technologies and applications.

This new funding will help to build Australia's ICT capabilities by supporting upgrades and extensions to the networks. It will also provide opportunities for continued research into and commercialisation of network technologies and the applications made possible by them.

The ICT Incubators and Advanced Networks programmes were originally funded from the partial sale of Telstra through the Building on IT Strengths (BITS) Initiative.

Media contact: Carina Tan-Van Baren(02) 6277 7480/ 0439 425 373