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Study to boost IT

24 August 2005

BALLARAT'S reputation as a leading information and communications technology centre will be bolstered following a State Government grant.

The $36,000 grant, announced yesterday by State and Regional Development Minister John Brumby, will fund a study into the status and future direction of Ballarat's ICT cluster.

The University of Ballarat study will be undertaken over two months and involves interviewing about 150 Ballarat ICT service providers and users.

UoB Centre for Regional Innovation and Competitiveness director Professor Julian Lowe said the program was the first of its kind in Victoria and would help Ballarat become an internationally competitive ICT centre.

"What we're trying to identify is the way in which the different ICT companies work together, are aware of each other and compete against each other.

"When we see that happening in a distinct geographic region we can identify that a cluster has formed and what clusters do is they provide an attraction for new businesses to enter, to skilled labour to enter and to new forms of capital (investment) to come in."

Mr Brumby said ICT was shaping up to be a key driver of growth in Ballarat, with the number of people employed in the sector increasing five-fold in six years.

"It's an extraordinary success story," he said.

"It's an extraordinary achievement and an extremely successful cluster."

The grant is part of the State Government's Regional Innovation Clusters Program which aims to harness the power of ICT to drive efficiencies across the whole economy.

"This grant will help build and strengthen relationships between Ballarat's ICT sector and the city's other business sectors, including education providers and R&D organisations," Mr Brumby said.

"By forming clusters, businesses and the tertiary sector can learn from each other, share the risk and cost of introducing new technology and increase their chance of success in the marketplace."

A report detailing the study's findings is expected to be released by the end of the year.

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