Government gives BITS and pieces to startups

The federal government has injected $76 million into 10 information technology and communications centres designed to support and foster the development of IT startups throughout Australia.

Funded through the second sale of Telstra last year, the initiative was announced in November and is known as The Building on Information Technology Strengths (BITS) Incubator Centre program.

Nine "incubators" have been nominated across NSW, Victoria, South Australia, Queensland, the ACT and Western Australia, with $5 million set aside for the Northern Territory.

Successful companies include ePark, inQbator, Perth Ideas Centre of Technology (PICTS), SA BITS, Capital Region Technology Business Centre (CRTBC), Bluefire Group, IT Catalyst, Information City and Australian Distributed Incubator - Emerge.

According to government officials, a similar incubator program will be established in Tasmania under a separate program - Intelligent Island.

"The Incubator Centre will provide support and information for new and growing firms, and stimulate the formation of clusters of innovate information technology businesses, " said the Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, Richard Alston.

"The BITS incubators will provide financial support, business skills development, marketing and sales advice, and generally act as mentors for new small businesses."

According to Alston, the centres will also provide assistance with developing business plans and skills, conducting market research, protecting intellectual property, establishing links with venture capitalists as well as financial, legal, marketing and taxation services.

Alston said that in addition to providing centres for metropolitan-based organisations, the program will also service rural and regional startups through the establishment of a "virtual incubator".

"The virtual incubator will assist startups in regional Australia that do not want - or are not able - to relocate to an incubator in a metropolitan area. The electronic network will be able to bring strategic advantages from a range of international venture capitalists, legal, commercial and academic entities."

Australian Distributed Incubator, which has offices in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, has been nominated as the "virtual incubator".

Alston said that more incubator centres will be established over the five years of the program.

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