A good-news week for the government has culminated in the announcement by mobile phone giant Ericsson and local IT consultancy Synergy of a centre to develop mobile internet applications.
Research, Science and Technology minister Pete Hodgson was on hand in Wellington yesterday afternoon when the two companies announced their joint venture, to be known as Ericsson-Synergy.
The new company will be based in Wellington with an office in Auckland and will provide 150 jobs over the next two or three years. An initial investment of $10 million has been quoted by sources.
The CEO of Ericsson-Synergy, Stephen Crombie, thanked Hodgson, Economic Development minister Jim Anderton and the government agencies Industry New Zealand, Trade New Zealand and Investment New Zealand at yesterday's launch. But Ericsson does not appear to have sought the kind of favours recently demanded by Motorola as the price of siting its proposed R&D centre in Christchurch.
Crombie says the project has been in the works for more than a year, but has accelerated in recent months. He says support from agencies has thus far been "mainly facilitative. They have provided us with routes through all the maze of applications that are need to get access to funds for development of staff and R&D and so on. We still have to go through the application process, so we don't actually know what we're going to get, but certainly from an eligibility perspective we know in which categories we can apply."
He says the partnership with Synergy arose because the two companies had similar aims.
"Both parties were looking at what they were going to do with the mobile internet space in New Zealand, Synergy coming from a software development perspective and us coming from more a pure networking technology perspective. We were looking and we ran into each other."
The new centre will be developing a range of mobile internet applications, says Crombie
"What we're doing is taking Ericsson's core products in network technology and seeing how they actually work when it comes to content. For example, we'll be developing applications that integrates a company's IT system, no matter what base it comes from, to the mobile environment.
"We'll also be producing applications for fun, particularly for the youth market. We produced a mobile internet company called E-Zebra, which is now owned by another company, and that's an example of the kind of technologies we'd be expert at."
What applications are developed are likely to be rolled out here first.
"New Zealand is an ideal test market for us, because it's got a high degree of innovation and rapid uptake of new technology," says Crombie. "It does provide a great opportunity for us, and then hopefully these products will work in other markets too."
Crombie says the level of investment in the joint venture "is not so much in the capital, because any business requires capital to get started, but more in the technology and processes that both Synergy and Ericsson can add into the venture."