A rough guide to government IT aid

"I'm from the government and I'm here to help" may seem like a contradiction in terms. But after last month's budget there seems to be more business programmes than you can shake a stick at.

I’m from the government and I’m here to help” may seem like a contradiction in terms. But after last month’s budget there seems to be more business programmes than you can shake a stick at. You might not know where to start, but here’s a rough guide to government help for IT.

Industry New Zealand was formed last October as the country’s economic development agency and its role is to carry out the Labour-lead government’s more proactive approach to industrial policy, a change made after 15 years of free-market non-interventionism. The agency is the delivery arm of the Ministry of Economic Development, headed by deputy prime minister Jim Anderton.

Though seen by some as a bogeyman, Anderton is one of the few on the Labour-Alliance benches to have had some practical experience in running a business. Big or small, his new department has schemes for nearly all businesses but IT firms are especially favoured.

Industry NZ aims to provide expert advice, help and facilitation and offers a range of direct assistance programmes, which the agency likens to a “staircase”. For instance, the Business Incubator programme, expanded in last month’s budget, aims to help firms identify best practice and nurture small companies in development stages. Then we move up to small and medium-sized enterprises, who can qualify for the Enterprise Awards Scheme. This offers grants of up to $20,000 to entrepreneurs and small businesses to assist them to develop products with strong growth potential. When firms expand, they can use the Business Growth Service, which provides advice, assistance and support to establish medium-sized businesses with a sound track record and high growth potential. Up to $100,000 of government support is available on a dollar-for-dollar basis.

And if the firm expands further and needs capital injections, the Investment Ready Scheme can help. It provides “ideas brokering” and deal-making services to help small and medium-sized businesses and entrepreneurs raise up to $5 million in capital.

Companies have to prepare themselves, show they are up to the job, by working with iGrow New Zealand, a deal broking company that works with the department. IGrow does an assessment, then scopes for capital and a deal is brokered with financiers.

Other schemes exist.

The Major Investment Group works with Trade New Zealand and helps with significant investment projects by providing business advice, facilitation and identifying relevant government policies and achievements. Recent successes include yacht building facilities in Whangarei and Hobsonville, Auckland.

A Regional Partnership Programme offers up to $2 million per year for regional initiatives. It grants regions $100,000 to develop a growth strategy and $100,000 per year to build the necessary capability to implement strategic plans.

A trawl around various government websites reveals upskilling programmes, e-commerce initiatives, business directories, Bizinfo, venture capital programmes, not to mention the Technology New Zealand schemes.

Last month’s budget awarded an extra $34.35 million of new spending to what is already a $70 million enterprise. As this column reported last week, the government plans to spend $331.87 million on industrial and regional development over four years.

There is also the $100 million Venture Capital Fund, launched in the budget.

The URLs listed below should help guide you through the government’s web of industrial support.

Darren Greenwood is Computerworld’s HR reporter. Send email to Darren Greenwood. Send letters for publication in Computerworld to Computerworld Letters.

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