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​Optus and Cisco to inject AU$12m into local development

Optus, in partnership with Cisco, is looking to advance the home grown development of new technologies in a bid to bring innovative ideas to Australian businesses and government organisations.

Optus Business and networking giant Cisco announced plans on Friday to invest AU$12 million over three years into the local development of capabilities focused on cybersecurity, cloud, the Internet of Things (IoT), and what they called the network of the future.

According to the companies, the co-investment is designed to prototype, develop, and launch new technological capabilities, with Optus expecting to co-create in collaboration with its customers.

"A national focus on becoming an innovation economy challenges us to constantly raise the bar and do things that have not been done before, more quickly than ever before," John Paitaridis, managing director for Optus Business, said.

"Many of the services and capabilities our economy will need tomorrow don't exist today. This alliance with Cisco bolsters our commitment to bridge this innovation gap for business and government, to help them navigate a complex and evolving technology landscape."

Paitaridis said that in order to stay ahead of the curve, businesses and government need to invest in startups and innovation centres.

"Innovation and responding to change are critical challenges for all Australian businesses and enterprises, to ensure they adapt to changing customer needs and market forces. We are demonstrating our commitment through our investment with Cisco, and in Fishburners and Stone & Chalk."

Optus announced a partnership with Sydney-based fintech startup hub Stone & Chalk last year, which sees the telco charged with providing IT services, Wi-Fi connectivity, and managed security to the non-profit hub.

The innovation centre currently houses 41 startups focusing on such sectors as predictive data analytics, superannuation, wearables, peer-to-peer lending, equity crowd funding, and distributed ledger.

"Innovation and responding to change is a critical challenge for all Australian businesses to ensure they adapt to changing customer needs and market forces," Paitaridis said at the time.

Previously, Optus launched startup seed-funding company Innov8, which offers funding to startups and collaborators with co-working spaces Fishburners, Sydney, and York Butter Factory, Melbourne, as well as accelerators such as Pollenizer and BlueChilli.

Optus' parent company Singtel also headed down the innovation path, partnering with several manufacturers earlier this year to launch products and solutions in the smart living sphere, including for home automation, health monitoring, and connected cars.

"As Singapore becomes a smart nation, we hope to help Singaporeans live better by empowering them to live more comfortably and safely with our smart living solutions," Yuen Kuan Moon, CEO of Singtel's Consumer Singapore group, said in January.

"We want to play a key role in smart, connected living and homes of the future through an intelligent, open platform with a rich ecosystem of partners. We are in a unique position to do so with our extensive network infrastructure capabilities in info-communications, cybersecurity, and analytics across the group. The possibilities are limitless."

Cisco, along with Data61 and the University of New South Wales, announced a partnership last month with the National Farmers' Federation, the NSW Farmers Association, the NSW Department of Primary Industries, and startup incubator ATP Innovations to bring technology to the agricultural world.

Known as Innovation Central Sydney, this partnership will focus on developing new uses for IoT technologies within the agricultural sector, as well as extending these solutions into implementing smart cities and smarter transport solutions.

Last year Cisco made it clear that it wanted to move deeper into the IoT with a horde of announcements focused on the manufacturing, transportation, utilities, and oil and gas industries.

In February, the networking giant announced its plans to pay $1.4 billion in cash to acquire IoT startup Jasper Technologies, after snapping up Cologne-based startup ParStream, which provides a database for analysing large amounts of IoT data in near real-time anywhere on the network.

Earlier this month, Cisco added Israeli chip designer Leaba Semiconductor for $320 million to its umbrella, after announcing a day earlier that it intends to pay $260 million for cloud orchestration startup CliQr.

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