Archive for March, 2010

Rhine and Paris are tops for IT

March 25, 2010

Germany’s Rhine-Main-Neckar region is Europe’s “Silicon Valley”, and the Paris region is ranked second, ahead of South East England. The United Kingdom has three regions in the top ten. 

 Truffle Capital has published its “Truffle 100 European Clusters” ranking of Europe’s top 42 regions for the software industry. This mapping is based on a survey undertaken with support of Viviane Reding (EC Commissioner) in collaboration with analysts CXP and the “Top 100 Research Foundation”.

 “It is a recent trend for the European Union to define Europe as regions and not as countries,” CEO and co-founder of Truffle Capital, Bernard-Louis Roques told IT Europa. “So we discussed with different political partners and software companies to know how Europe was doing compared to other clusters such as the Silicon Valley and the Boston area.”

 The four flagships are Rhine-Main-Neckar in Germany (€12.5bn revenue), then Paris region (Ile-de-France), (€2.5bn), third is South-East England (€1.9bn) and fourth is North-East England (€1.4bn).

 “That Ile-de-France is the second European region isn’t surprising, because France is a country extremely centralised, where everything happens in Paris,” explained Roques, “but a lot of French companies have been acquired in the last two years, representing about €1.5bn,” such as GL Trade (French No. 4) bought by Sunguard, Ilog (No. 5) bought by IBM, Viveo (No. 13) bought in December by a Swiss company, or Business Objects also in the Paris region, that represented about €1bn that was bought by SAP. And that explains also why “the Rhine-Main-Neckar region is growing its lead,” he continues. “This is mainly due to acquisitions by German companies, such as Software AG or SAP.”

contributed by Graeme Vickery, OECD, Paris

Cairns’ Tropical Innovation Hub

March 25, 2010

Good to see the advance of the Cairns Institute – Tropical Innovation Hub, an idea that has got some traction. 

James Cook Uni is determined to see Australian tropical knowledge expertise connected to a wider marketplace. On another front, JCU is looking at a suitable niche for science training with tropical sustainable agriculture and resource management.  They attempted a tropical agriculture undergraduate course recently but it didn’t hit the mark, possibly because JCU were unsure of where their efforts best lay.

 For those wondering where this fits, agriculture and resource science forms much of the basis for the regional economy in north Australia.  Much of the development and innovation for our tropical future will come from this sector, matching resource availability with sustainable management practice. The recent release of the Northern Australian Land and Water Task Force assessment of ‘Sustainable Development of Northern Australia’ is food for thought, with a fairly stark reminder of the pressures that are likely to exist for future economic development. 

This helps to dispel unrealistic expectations of rabbit-out-of-the-hat solutions for Australia’s food needs if southern Australia gets drier, but also highlights the need to work with facts rather than just with emotion and ill-informed notions.

 So, it appears that JCU is seeking to examine this worthy question again, and may consider offering a post-graduate course in either sustainable tropical agro-ecology or sustainable tropical agro-forestry.  Given the evident decrease in other institutions’ enrolments in agriculture-related science area, and the scrutiny for sustainable development and tropical expertise, this is an important topic.  It is important to note that the current proposal is for post-grad training, and we still need to ask, where are the quality graduate-qualified people coming from?  This does not appear to be part of the current equation and will remain a gap in our future science resource. 

 If you are part of this sector, you may care to add to the feedback and assist with some market direction for our future training.  How relevant are these options to our needs? The link to a survey will allow you to add your thoughts and wisdom –


Angles for Cockatoo members

  • This note was submitted by ‘Tropics’ (he prefers this pseudonym due to contract work at present). Send your comments to us, and we will on-forward them.
  • This is a $44 million project – hence of some importance. The proponents would be wise to connect it to Asian and Pacific nodes. Please discuss!

German clusters lead innovation

March 25, 2010


Paquita Lamacraft, an Aussie working in Germany, has filed this report based on recent research by the Berlin Institute for Innovation and Technology. 

The Institute has prepared a report analysing 107 “of the most innovative” clusters in Germany. Clusters are seen as an economic phenomenon that can be measured. And Germany takes its structures seriously, funding them accordingly, but requiring accurate results reporting. Over 4,000 SMEs, 700 global players and 1,300 universities or technical institutes are on the data base.

Funding of German clusters is provided at both federal and state level, giving parallel funding streams in addition to opportunities for EU funding. The clusters in receipt of funding date back to 1995. There are  both top down and bottom up cluster types, and the greatest success lies with the bottom up clusters which seem to be more internationally engaged.

Over 80% of the group studied have some sort of legal constitution – whether by Association (predominant preference), or other status. The funding policies vary. Federally-funded clusters receive greater funding, although it decreases over time, because external private funding is a requirement. Funding varies according to the sector – biotechnology clusters are well-resourced.

Clusters generally have 1-3 paid employees with responsibility for identifying and implementing demand-based activities e.g. establishing specialised test or research centres, training etc. Go to In next month’s Cockatoo we feature more on German cluster successes.

Angles for Cockatoo members

  • Contact Paquita at to compare notes and explore alliance opportunities between clusters in Germany and your region. We certainly hope to use her on the Sunrise project.

Orbost’s famous hardmen

March 25, 2010

With a population of under 3,000 and at the end of the Gippsland cul-de-sac (as Bill Kelty used to call it), Orbost has been doing it tough due to the forestry rationalisation.

But it’s a nice place, with good pubs.  We were recently mulling about how small towns can exert a bit more influence, and we thought of Orbost because it’s the home of two hardmen of politics – Peter Nixon (Nationals’ deputy leader in the 1960s-1970s) and Lindsay Tanner (current Labor Finance Minister). And the local Independent member in the Victorian Parliament is Craig Ingram, who is no softie either.

But it doesn’t stop there. Michael Voss, the tough ex Brisbane Lions player and now coach spent his formative years there. And also pop guru Molly Meldrum – but he was probably in nappies when he left town. But a formidable quintet if Orbost ever wanted to do some serious lobbying. Any small towns out there who can match Orbost?

Peter Garrett, the left-wing right-brainer…

March 25, 2010

Aussie PM Paul Keating used to take every opportunity to label Joe Hockey a dill. Joe has since proved to be anything but.

Environment Minister Peter Garrett has got the same treatment over the last eighteen months, and things have escalated. Sure there’s a principle of Ministerial accountability, but Garrett has been hung out to dry over the home insulation program.

We knew the program was flawed. I said from the start that apart from being a blatant case of government deciding what’s best for a house-owner, the fast-tracking would cut across the safety and liability issues.

My sixth sense was based on the experience of the Building & Construction Industry Reform Strategy during the 1990s. The aim was quite different to the Rudd Government’s latest effort, but it provided some very good pointers. First, the details were thrashed out over nine months by the industry associations, the unions, the prime contractors, their sub-contractors and DAS (the feds’ own construction arm). Secondly, the states were fully on-side. Thirdly, there was a succession of federal Ministers (Beddall, Crean, Schacht, Bolkus) championing the program. Fourthly, the feds had a Board of industry/union leaders to deflect the heat.

Fast-forward to the home insulation program. No real partnerships or buy-in from the industry players. No Board. No evidence that the Department of Environment officials understood the issues. No evidence of other federal agencies helping DoE to sort things out – in any case, DAS has disappeared as has the expertise in the Industry Department.

 The main lesson from this monumental stuff-up has not surfaced, namely that people with strong right-brain tendencies like Garrett need to be appreciated, nurtured and watched. They are full of ideas and energy, but frustrated by detail and process. Whitlam, Gorton, Keating are past examples, and Tony Abbott, Joe Hockey and Barnaby Joyce are looming as current examples.

Raving right-brainers should not be anywhere near program delivery. So who are the left-brainers who love the detail and the process? Well John Faulkner and Greg Combet currently fit the bill, hence it’s good to see Combet now in charge of the insulation clean-up.

On the Opposition side, the three former Howard Government Ministers – Kevin Andrews, Bronwyn Bishop and Philip Ruddock – exhibit strong left-brain tendencies. I suspect Greg Hunt is in their team too.

And some fortunate folk have a balance of left and right brain tendencies. Rudd, Hawke and Turnbull would be my nominations. Perhaps even Howard.

But getting back to Garrett, he showed fortitude and eloquence under pressure during Question Time and countless media interviews. He is passionate about the environmental cause, and has great empathy with our youth. Let’s appreciate him for what he is.

This article appeared in Silverhawk’s ‘Good Oil’ column in Local Government Focus, March 2010.