BioMelbourne Network to become independent agency

By Melissa Trudinger
Tuesday, 08 October, 2002

The BioMelbourne Network has received a boost from the Victorian government in the form of $750,000 funding over the next three years to launch the organisation as an independent state-based biotechnology agency.

The funding will be used to increase investment attraction and trade development in Victorian biotechnology, promotional activities to position Victoria's industry both nationally and internationally and to improve the development of the industry through professional development programs.

"The network will focus exclusively on the interests of the Melbourne and Victorian biotech sectors," said Victorian Innovation Minister John Brumby, announcing the funding.

He said Victoria was home to more than a third of Australia's biotech start-ups and more publicly listed biotech companies than any other state, and said that the Network would help build on these achievements.

The BioMelbourne Network was established in 2001 as an initiative of the Committee for Melbourne, and has focused primarily on networking events bringing together scientific, government and business communities. It also actively participated in Victoria's Bio2002 contingent in June this year.

According to Tim Murphy, the Network's executive director, one of the Network's core tasks would be to tap into global trade development agencies and activities.

"There is a gap in the market for a 'network of networks'," he said, explaining that the BioMelbourne Network was keen to work with other biotech clusters. He noted that San Diego's biotech cluster had already expressed interest in forming links with Melbourne's industry.

In addition to establishing the trade development program, the organisation plans to continue its regular series of networking meetings and will initiate a series of CEO round table events to provide feedback to government on issues including access to finance and skilled personnel, and the needs of medium-sized companies. The Network will also continue its promotional programs for events including Bio2003, to be held in Washington, DC.

"BioMelbourne Network will be the first point of contact for local and international companies looking to do business in Melbourne and Victoria," said Committee for Melbourne chairman Jack Smorgon. "The Network will act as a national and international trade development agency to drive the expansion of Victoria's biotechnology industries and attract investment to the state."

In addition to the support from the State government, the Network has received funding from the City of Melbourne to assist with its establishment.

And the Network also announced that Nobel Laureate Prof Peter Doherty would become the science patron of the agency.

Murphy described the appointment as "a bit of a coup for us," and said that Doherty would open doors to the science community both locally and internationally.

"He believes in, as we do, the need for greater science understanding," he said. "He also is an advocate of how business can help science." The Network is also negotiating for a business patron, and Murphy said he hoped that an announcement would be made soon.

"It's fair to state that [the BioMelbourne Network] is a biotech start-up, but it is one with a very good pedigree," said Murphy.

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