IT firms welcome staff exchange scheme

Small IT firms are keen to benefit from an Industry New Zealand programme to boost international staff exchange programmes and trade missions.

Small IT firms are keen to benefit from an Industry New Zealand programme to boost international staff exchange programmes and trade missions.

The $2.25 million “World Class New Zealanders” programme, announced at the Innovate event in Christchurch last week, offers small businesses up to $75,000 to send someone overseas or bring an expert here.

The exchanges can last up to six months to let businesses acquire international best practice, improve management capability, develop international networks, and improve innovation and export readiness.

It does not cover direct export trade missions, which are already helped by existing Trade NZ programmes.

Arjen de Landgraaf, director or Auckland security firm Co-Logic, says the new scheme is one of the most productive initiatives he has seen in a long time. The cost of developing useful overseas networks is often prohibitive for small firms like his, he says, and he will definitely be applying to Industry New Zealand for funding.

“Great,” says Dave Waterson, chief executive of Auckland software company Ripple Effects, of the scheme. He also plans to seek funding. His firm is bringing over US marketing advisers later this month and next month his staff will be heading to the US to carry out market research and prepare the launch of their software product.

Auckland Icehouse innovation centre manager Paul Adams welcomes the project as long as it is simple to apply for funding. The support would help businesses enhance their products, he says, but just six months of support “may be rushing it” when more time would give better results.

Industry New Zealand, which will administer and monitor the scheme, plans to use networks built up by business groups such as the Kiwi Expat Association to identify potential overseas partners, but many firms will be expected to find their own potential partners.

“One of the essential of growth is to ensure that we can tap into the best ideas, people and networks that the world has to offer,” says Economic Development Minister Jim Anderton. “We need to harness the connections and goodwill of those Kiwis who choose to live abroad,” Anderton told Innovate conference attendees.

World Class New Zealanders is available to firms with up to 100 full-time staff, or annual revenues of under $50 million. The business must pay half the accommodation costs and the person’s salary, but the scheme will pay for the airfares, the other half of living costs and accommodation. The programme will also give similar help to missions involving up to three businesses that are designed to evaluate overseas products or technology.

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