The Hon Philip Dalidakis MP - travel report - USA & Chile, 23 September - 6 October 2017

MinisterThe Hon. Philip Dalidakis MP
PortfolioTrade and Investment
Innovation and the Digital Economy
Small Business
Countries visitedUSA and Chile
Date of travel23 September - 6 October 2017
No. of official travel days
(including day of departure and day of return)
Number of accompanying ministerial staff1
Accompanied by spouse in an official capacityNo
Funding for the overseas trip was paid by (list department/s or agency)Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources
Air fares (including taxes and fees)$29,418*
Accommodation (including taxes and fees)$12,790*
Other expenses (includes surface travel and travel allowances)$18,793*
Travel cost for minister and staff$61,001*

*The above costs are not final and complete

Purpose of travel

The United States of America

The North American market for the medical technologies and pharmaceuticals sector remains one of the key prospective markets for Victoria in terms of investment, research and collaboration and trade.

The purpose of my visit was to promote trade and investment opportunities and engage with key stakeholders plus in market representatives to solidify and further grow Victoria's investment pipeline in key sectors such as financial services and technologies, biotechnologies and pharmaceuticals and digital technologies.

To that end, in New York, I attended investment meetings and engaged with high level stakeholders to position Victoria's financial services capability and promote Melbourne as a potential headquarters location in the Asia Pacific region.

In Boston, I met with and toured life sciences technology research and development facilities, and promoted Victoria's capabilities in this sector and potential investment opportunities. I hosted roundtable discussions with leading life science industry leaders to discuss the way in which Victoria can play a role in cross-border research and collaboration activities and expansion plans.

Whilst in Houston, I toured facilities and met with representatives from the MD Anderson Cancer Centre at the University of Texas to strengthen their existing collaborations with Melbourne hospitals and research organisations.


Latin America is a priority market outlined in the Victorian Government's International Education Sector Strategy. Principle opportunities in the region are in the delivery of vocational training, English language teacher training and English Language Intensive Courses for Overseas Students (ELICOS), and the establishment of research partnerships between Victorian and Latin American Institutions. Chile is a significant source of onshore Victorian international education students, with enrolments increasing by nearly 20 percent in the year to December 2016.

My travel to Chile provided the opportunity to promote Victoria's strengths as a deliverer of premium international student experiences through our services and programs, and to deepen cultural and academic ties between Chilean and Victorian Universities, particularly through research collaborations and staff and student flows.

Whilst in Chile, I attended the launch of the inaugural direct flight from Santiago to Melbourne with Latam Airlines.

Benefits of travel to the State of Victoria

The United States of America

New York

Victoria is seeing increasing interest in US and other international venture capital funds around opportunities for investment in Victorian companies. The US has long-established capability and expertise in the financial services and financial technology sectors, and is a key partner for further developing Victorian capability through encouraging additional investment and collaboration in the sector.

Whilst in New York, I engaged with executives from New York Venture Capital companies to discuss opportunities to grow the Venture Capital industry in Victoria. Melbourne has a growing FinTech sector built on the strong foundation of our financial services sector, and digital technology capabilities in data, cyber, web and mobile applications. The Victorian Government is supporting the FinTech sector through establishing a Fin Tech Hub in Docklands to boost local start-ups, attract investment and create new jobs. Key learnings from these meetings will help inform the future development of this important initiative.

Additionally, I met with several companies looking at expanding into the Asia Pacific region to encourage them to choose Victoria as the location for the Asia Pacific Headquarters. Notably LiveTiles has since come to an agreement with the Victorian Government which will see 500 jobs created in Geelong.

I spent time in Newark, located outside of New York, to learn from their experience in impact investment and strategic telecommunications infrastructure investment. Newark has experienced economic development due to the entry of companies like Audible and targeted investment in telecommunications infrastructure that echoes our own investment in regional areas. At my meeting with the CEO and Founder of Audible (an Amazon company), we discussed the impact of moving their headquarters to Newark, the tech ecosystem and social impact innovation.

I met with Newark Venture Partners (NVP) group that assists in early stage start-ups in financial and strategic growth stages, to discuss potential collaborations between Victorian tech accelerators and NVP. I also met with Prudential Financial to discuss their model for impact investment and the results of their approach in the wider Newark area. Meetings with the Mayor of Newark, local officials working in economic development, and the innovative startups operating in Newark provided important learnings in the regulatory and fiscal mechanisms that have created growth in the area.

While in Newark, I also met with innovative Agtech business AeroFarms, who are a world leading vertical farm facility with potential opportunities for Australian food production and export.

I attended a reception with President George Bush and President Clinton for the opening of the 2017 Presidents Cup. With Melbourne hosting this event in 2019, this was an excellent networking opportunity with senior representatives of the golfing world and sponsoring organisations.


While in Boston, I was pleased to formally open the new Victorian Government Trade and Investment (VGTI) office. The new office will promote Victoria's medical technology and pharmaceuticals sector and help local companies expand into North America while encouraging foreign companies to invest in Victoria and create local jobs. Victoria has the biggest network of international offices of any Australian state with the opening of Boston following office openings in Singapore and Santiago in the last 12 months.

The visit to Boston was primarily an opportunity to create inbound trade opportunities for our Biomedical research sector. Australian biomedical research companies provide high quality clinical trial facilities and a speedy pathway to regulatory approval. A networking event was hosted for Boston based companies and consulting companies that provide inbound market support, to both inform about the benefits of Victorian clinical research facilities and create a pipeline of inbound opportunities. In addition to this event, I had several other meetings which have generated inbound trade.

I met with Frequency Therapeutics, a Massachusetts-based regenerative medicine company working to develop cell therapies for hearing loss. Frequency Therapeutics develops small molecule drugs that activate progenitor cells within the body to restore healthy tissue. Its lead program re-creates sensory cells in the inner ear to treat chronic noise induced hearing loss, which affects over 48 million people in the US alone.

They have been exploring locations both in Australia and the USA for a potential location to conduct their First-in-Human trial. Frequency Therapeutics has since moved forward with establishing these trials in Victoria.

I met with MassBio, who are one of the largest life science industry organisations in the US. At my meeting with the President and CEO, we discussed opportunities for future collaboration.

In addition, I met with investors of the Boston-based biopharmaceutical company Enyo Pharma. The company bases its innovation on mimicking viral strategies to discover new cellular targets, including infectious and metabolic diseases. Enyo Pharma has agreed to establish its first wholly owned Enyo Pharma research centre subsidiary in Melbourne to accommodate one of the company's leading programs, the clinical trials for chronic Hepatitis B.

The other focus of the Boston visit was to learn from the innovation infrastructure and ecosystem, both in the Biomedical industry and other technology verticals.

I met with a leading global biotech innovation hub to further our understanding of successful partnerships with major Bio and Pharma companies to build more new companies from local research institutes.

I also met with the Cambridge Innovation Centre and District Hall to discuss their approach to co-working and innovation infrastructure.


In Houston, I toured the MD Anderson Cancer Center at the University of Texas. The Centre is one of the world's most respected centres devoted exclusively to cancer patient care, research, education and prevention. While at the facility, I met with key US life science industry leaders to discuss ways in which Victoria can play a role in cross-border research and collaboration activities and discuss their potential expansion plans.

At MD Anderson, I visited the Moon Shots program to gain insight into their unique research and development program. Inspired by America's drive to put a man on the moon, the Moon Shot program aims to improve cancer prevention, early detection and treatment. By organising the services and teams that support research and development into platforms that collaborate across the organisation, they can accelerate the discovery and commercialisation of new therapies and pharmaceuticals.

I also visited the JLABS facility at the Texas Medical Centre (TMC). JLABS provides centralised wetlab facilities, expertise and embedded partners to drive commercialisation of new discoveries in pharmaceuticals. They are in the process of building a similar model for medical device creation at the TMC facility. While there, I also noted bridging programs that have enabled Victorian based companies to spend time at the facility to accelerate their commercialisation and growth, and discussed ways to support these programs. 



In Santiago, I met with the Australian Ambassador to Chile, HE Mr Robert Fergusson, to discuss Victorian Government focus areas for Chile and South America. I conveyed to him that the Victorian Government recognises the support the Embassy has extended to the new Santiago Victorian Government Trade and Investment (VGTI) office and we discussed the importance of continuing to work together in the region.

I hosted the launch event for the inaugural Victorian Alumni Network in Chile which included the participation of some 70 Chilean Alumni from Melbourne's Universities. The event celebrated efforts to formalise an alumni group of Victorian university students living in Chile. The Victorian Alumni Network in Chile will be a networking group that connects former students from Victorian universities and TAFEs living in Chile. The Network will help participants generate connections with other Victorian Alumni, foster professional development opportunities and contribute to growing people to people links between Victoria and Chile.

Whilst at the event, I announced a Victorian Government grant to the Chilean AFL team, the Santiago Saints, who lost their equipment during a fire in early July. The club is an important part of the Australian community in Chile and brings together players from Australia, New Zealand, Chile and fellow teams from Columbia and Brazil. The team includes Australians living or working in Chile, Chileans who have lived, studied or worked in Australia and some Australian companies with a presence in Chile.

I hosted a roundtable meeting with Chilean universities to talk about Victoria's research strengths and the mobility of students and academics between Chile and Victoria. The discussions opened a dialogue for further university to university collaboration with Victoria and will provide an opening for new opportunities to promote Victorian study options to students at these universities.

The roundtable also explored successful models for generating Chilean cultural and educational experiences for Australian students. I met with DUOC University, a private Chilean technical education service provider, with a view to establishing an agreement between DUOC and TAFE Victoria to facilitate a 2-3 week study tour program for up to 16 TAFE Victoria students across the fields of textiles, hospitality, construction and business.

I attended the launch of the inaugural direct flight between Santiago and Melbourne operated by Latam airlines. Direct international air services into Victoria are crucial in supporting international tourism flows, investment, trade, business linkages, and connectivity with Victoria's significant migrant community, and trade. Latam have introduced a thrice weekly direct service between Melbourne and Santiago, which commenced on 5 October 2017. They are the only direct carrier to operate the route. The new service will strengthen economic ties, cultural connections and relationships between Victoria and Latin America. 

Next Steps / Follow Up

The United States of America

New York

There are a number of US based companies looking at Australasian expansion, which the VGTI team will be working with to assist them to set up Victorian offices. Additionally, opportunities for New York based Venture Capitalists to connect with Victorian investment opportunities are being explored.


Learnings have been taken from the visits to biotechnology innovation labs which has inspired policy work on initiatives that can facilitate growth. Further investigation is currently being undertaken to determine feasibility of such initiatives in Victoria.


The Victorian government is working with industry bodies in the Victorian biotechnology sector to assist Victorian companies to leverage international mobility programs. The VGTI will also continue to create connections between our Victorian clinical research facilities and the Research and Development teams located within the Texas Medical Centre.



The VGTI team are investigating opportunities for possible increased depth of collaboration with their Victorian university partners in research. One of the major findings of the roundtable is that Chilean students have gone on exchange to Victorian universities, but Victorian students rarely go to Chile. The team has taken learnings from successful implementations of specialist structured study tours at Chilean universities as a model that increases Chilean bound exchange.

Page last updated: 9 January 2018