Page 685 - Week 03 - Tuesday, 17 March 2015

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is an incredible set of outcomes for businesses at such a highly risky and challenging stage.

Another excellent case study of the business development strategy is Lithicon. Early last year Lithicon, an ANU spin-out, was sold to US company FEI for $US76 million. Lithicon’s technology platform produces digital 3D images and simulations of fluids in rock samples, giving companies crucial information to help them work out the best way to extract oil and gas. The sale returned $11 million directly to the ANU, plus an ongoing licensing stream, as well as funds to other investors, such as the Canberra business development fund and Australian Capital Ventures Ltd.

In the early days of its commercialisation process, Lithicon was a recipient of ACT government grant funding, which led to further funding from ANU Connect Ventures and the Canberra business development fund. Lithicon is a great example of how a small early investment can bring much larger rewards.

Despite the difficulties caused to our economy by the actions of the federal government, we continue to be one of the best performing regions in Australia and, as a result, the world’s most livable city. But we are not relaxing, in a mistaken belief that the job is done; we are getting on with it to make Canberra an even better place for businesses to operate. Through the regulatory reform panel and other industry representative bodies, we are working to identify regulations that impose unnecessary burdens, costs or disadvantages on business activity within the territory. In the last budget the government increased the payroll tax threshold to $1.85 million. As a result, another 150 businesses no longer need to pay payroll tax. The ACT’s payroll tax system is by far the friendliest to small business in Australia.

As government resources are limited, it is important that we support those businesses that can make the biggest contribution to growing our economy. Our investment in the CBR Innovation Network is a demonstration of our commitment to this goal. We are very pleased that five institutions have made a commitment to work with us through the CBR Innovation Network to accelerate innovation in the ACT.

But the innovation network is only about research institutions and not about broad business innovation. The reason the national institutions have agreed to be foundation members of the network is that they understand that if they are to succeed in their commercialisation goals they need the whole innovation ecosystem to support them. A spin-out from the ANU or the University of Canberra, for example, is more likely to be successful if the innovation environment is supportive. These research institutions understand that they cannot operate in a vacuum.

Many of Canberra’s leading companies use digital technology as the source of their competitive position. For example, EOS relies on digital technology for its laser tracking of space junk. Other export award winners, such as Intelledox and Seeing Machines, have businesses built around the innovative application of digital technology. The majority of new companies going through Innovation Connect, Entry 29 and other programs such as the discovery translation fund have digital technology at their competitive core.

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