Jeffery Tobias, the former head of now bankrupt distributor Dataflow, has re-emerged in the channel as the CEO of an Internet research consortium. What's more, the consortium has already managed to secure around $100 million in funding over the next seven years from several high-profile organisations, including Westpac, Telstra, 10 universities and Federal and State Governments.
The former owner of the once high-flying distributor is heading up Smart Internet Technology Cooperative Research Centre (SIT CRC). It is a consortium of private sector companies, government departments and educational institutions.
Westpac is the latest in a number of companies -- Motorola Labs, Telstra, CommSecure, Hewlett-Packard, Creative Digital Technology and Adacel among them -- that have invested in the consortium for a seven-year period. Other member agencies include the NSW Department of Information & Technology Management, the ACT Government, Australian National University, Sydney University and the University of Tasmania.
SIT CRC's aim is to fund research projects in developing applications, technology and intellectual property that drive Internet usage, and evolve the way the Internet is used in the future. Tobias said the commonly held view among consortium members is that before long there will be a multitude of Internet-enabled devices, from PCs, phones and PDAs to fridges and other home appliances, all operating in a wireless and high-bandwidth environment.
Tobias claims the challenge members face is how to leverage new applications and the Internet to drive sales, improve customer satisfaction and gain a competitive market edge. SIT CRC has funded $6 million in projects since August last year and Tobias said members expect up to fivefold returns on their initial investment.