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Magazines : Our Place - Geelong Region Magazine 2011
Visit our website to: Order a free Venues & Services Directory BusinessEventsGeelong.com.au Business Events Geelong, book or enquire online now 2111056-GRM2011 GEELONG rode on the sheep’s back for many years. Then we caught a lift with the manufacturing and processing industries. The next big thing is much smaller than a car or a merino but has the potential to propel us along the information superhighway at breakneck speeds. The information and communication technology sector (ICT for geeks) is a fledgling industry in Geelong , but proponents believe it can become a dominant player in Victoria’s fastest growing regional centre. Leading the charge of bits and bytes in a world of nuts and bolts is the peak representative body ICT Geelong. It was formed just two years ago and is backed by some of the heavy -hitters in local government, industry and education sectors. ICT Geelong plans to position the region as a major precinct in Australia’s Silicon Valley. More than 131,000 Victorians are employed in the ICT industry, generating more than $27.4b in annual revenue, about $3b in expor ts and accounting for a third of Australia’s ICT workforce. The Geelong region is home to more than 250 ICT businesses, employing well over 2500 people. In the grand scheme of things, that’s small fry compared to Melbourne and, even, Ballarat, which has had a five- year headstart with its ICT cluster, but change comes quickly in the technology world. “ We’re building the foundation at the moment, and that’s probably going to take another three or four years to get some physical runs on the board,’ ’ ICT Geelong co-ordinator Craig Hill says. Education is a key component of the cluster and much ICT research is being conducted by Deakin University into areas such as aerospace, defence and human performance. A study is under way to deter mine highly specialised areas of ICT where Geelong can become renowned. Underlying this is a strategy for development and retention of ICT skills in the region. “There’s some g reat IT careers in spor t, entertainment and music, so it’s not just sitting at a computer and coding. It’s relevant to pretty much ever y industry in the economy,’ ’ Craig says. “It’s now a big par t of ever yone’s lives.’ ’ In a bid to stimulate ideas and showcase the inventiveness of some of the region’s top ICT entrepreneurs, ICT Geelong ran an innovation test last year, giving away $40,000 in prizes to the winner. More than 50 submissions were received for the competition from throughout the state, with six of the nine finalists hailing from Geelong. For his efforts in developing a sign lang uage animator that converts text and speech to sign language via a 3D animated character, Vibushan Lakshminarayan walked away with the major prize, including cash, an entrepreneurship course at the Mecca of IT, the University of California’s Berkeley campus and assistance in the commercialisation of his project. “It will increase the quality of life for the deaf and improve communication between the deaf and the general community,’’ Vibushan says of his creation. ICT Geelong plans to r un the competition again this year; it is anticipating more than 100 entries. It’s a key plank in the development of the ICT industry in Geelong over the next 12 months. But to build a strong and sustainable eco- system in the region requires the suppor t of not just education and research institutions, government and large tech cor porates; there must also be a pool of small and medium enter prises and start-up companies. “ We’re strong in two or three of those areas but we’re very, very weak in two or three of the other areas,’ ’ Craig says. Adds ICT Geelong chairman Rober t Reed: “Cer tainly we’re interested in getting the big anchor tenants but where we see our real focus is creating the new star t-ups and, to me, that creates a whole different culture that Geelong needs to embrace.’ ’ The group believes Geelong is ideally placed geographically, economically and socially to develop into a major ICT precinct. “ I think we’re lucky, because we are big enough to be able to do larger projects and the funding is available, but we’re small enough to do some innovative things on the fly,’ ’ Rober t says. Added Craig: “ Victoria is regarded as the IT centre of Australia , especially with the NBN (National Broadband Network) head office in Melbourne and we’re only 75km down the road from that, so we ’ve got the oppor tunity to leverage better into Melbourne.’ ’ “There’s some great IT careers in sport, entertainment and music, so it’s not just sitting at a computer and coding – it’s relevant to pretty much every industry in the economy.’’ Above: Vibushan Lakshminarayan won last year’s innovative prize. Left: ITC Geelong’s Robert Reed and Craig Hill .... There are plans to position our region as a major precinct in Australia’s Silicon Valley.
Breakaway Autumn 2011