Biggs takes over HiGrowth project

Not just 100 companies at $100m any more, says former Gen-i man

The former head of Gen-i, Garth Biggs has been appointed executive director of the ICT industry’s HiGrowth Project.

Biggs missed out on the top job at Gen-i following Telecom's purchase of the company, however he was appointed to run Telecom's solutions team in Australia during the merger.

Now he says the HiGrowth project under his control will “take a helicopter view of the industry and leverage our influence with government to effect environmental change.”

Biggs plans to collaborate with colleagues in the biotechnology industries to establish common areas of interest, such as encouraging research and development, he says. “We will be packaging that in a way that makes it clearly understood, then going to government to get some action and traction.”

He says he has “not given five seconds’ thought” to different strategies that might be necessary depending on the make-up of government after the election. The project is pursuing growth in industry for the good of New Zealand, and that is a goal that will be supported by any government, though there may be “differences in style and tactics”, he says.

In the productivity direction, the project has chosen a focus on local government, where authorities clearly have a number of problems and tasks in common and can be encouraged to adopt similar solutions for increased overall productivity. What comes out of such a partnership may well be exportable.

Only two weeks ago, however, EDS New Zealand CEO Rick Ellis was lamenting the company’s lack of success at expanding a ratepaying solution developed for Auckland Regional Council to the broader local government market. Each local authority seems still to want to go its own way, he said.

The HiGrowth Project is charged with bringing through the goals spelt out in the report of the ICT TaskForce. The most basic of these goals was to have 100 ICT companies doing $100m of business each by 2012. This needs to be made more flexible, says Biggs. While some companies are striving to reach the $100m goal, and should be supported in that, it’s clear that the sector has a far greater range of realistic goals; at least one is on its way to $500m; others are pushing from a few million to try to reach the $10m mark. “We wouldn’t want to give those companies the impression that we are out of their reach,” he says.

The goal of having the ICT sector account for 10% of gross domestic product by the same target date remains.

The Task Force report is being revised, but this is a continual process or re-examination of priorities, Biggs says. “There’s not some scheduled date by which we’re going to present a big new version of the report.”

Biggs succeeds Catherine Colarco, the founding executive director of the project.

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