Home Industry Development Victorian software company wants support for home-grown ICT firms

Export success could ironically result in a Victorian software company moving its global support operations offshore in the absence of appropriate industry development measures.

Sky Software produces software for educational institutions from its base in Geelong, Victoria's second city, located approximately 70km southwest of Melbourne.

Its customers include the University of Queensland, the Australian Film, Television and Radio School, South Australia's Department for Education and Child Development, and Otago University (New Zealand) - as well as others in the Czech Republic, Hong Kong, Kuwait, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, and the UK.

Sky Software CEO Nick Stanley told iTWire that the company wants to continue to invest in Geelong, but its success in overseas markets - including a major contract that will soon be announced in a European country - means there are "searching questions" to be answered.

That contract could see the company relocate a significant number of staff to the UK, he said. Running the relationship with the customer from Australia is more expensive due to the distances involved.

Mr Stanley would like to the state and federal governments respond to plans by major employers such as Ford and Shell to shed staff in Geelong by supporting smaller companies rather than trying to attract a large company to the area.

Spreading the risk over perhaps 50 companies - including startups that may develop into the next generation of medium businesses - could be a safer bet than providing a financial incentive to one company to bring 500 jobs to Geelong in one move.

This isn't pure self-interest. The Geelong ICT sector "is a bit of a well-kept secret," he said, with around 300 SME software companies in the region. "There really is a vibrant ICT industry in Geelong," said Mr Stanley.

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Stephen Withers

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Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences, a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies, and is a senior member of the Australian Computer Society.

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