Healthcare’s technology revolution means a boost for jobs in IT

8:15AM | Monday, 10 August

  We tend to think about our healthcare sector as a leader in the development and use of advanced medical technology and biotechnology, such as expensive imaging machines or devices that we implant into patients.   But in many aspects of conducting the business of healthcare, our healthcare system is still in a pre-digital era. For example, healthcare may be the last sector where significant amounts of communication are still done via fax and regular post.   This is not to say that significant changes are not happening. Radiology is increasingly using digital technology but the interpretation of these images is still manual. Electronic health and medical records are also being introduced widely but there is little communication between collectors.   The digital revolution in healthcare that is currently slowly unfolding will use data and technology to improve the healthcare of patients. It will also increase safety and quality, and improve efficiency in the health care system.   The eyes have it… remotely One example of how technology can be used to deliver better healthcare is a recent trial by CSIRO and our partners that provided screening for eye diseases among people in remote parts of Western Australia and Queensland.   Using the nbn’s satellite broadband service, we screened more than 1,200 people in their communities for diseases such as diabetic retinopathy. This disease often causes irreversible blindness, and it affects the Indigenous population at nearly four times the rate of the non-Indigenous population.   Captured: a typical high-resolution image of a patient’s retina. CSIRO, CC BY-NC   Local health workers were trained at capturing high-resolution images of a patient’s retina with a low-cost retinal camera. These images were stored then uploaded over the NBN satellite to ophthalmologists in Brisbane and Perth.   The screening program identified 68 patients who were at high risk of going blind, including those with macular edema. In the most case these patients received treatment locally. However, some patients needed transfer to major hospitals for immediate treatment.   Once patients were identified as being at risk of significant eye disease, they were provided with care plans that involved local follow up consultations and regular screening the tele-eye care screening program.   For diabetic patients this included advice on controlling their diabetes, which improves their overall health as well as reducing the risk of blindness.   We have the technology Overall, the trial showed the effectiveness of providing a “store and forward” tele-ophthalmology service using satellite broadband. These types of services have previously been held back by unreliable broadband services and the lack of digital systems in our health services to interact with them.   Reliable broadband connectivity together with increased use of digital systems by health services means that these methods of health service delivery can now become the normal way healthcare is provided.   But for these tele-enabled models of care to really take off, patient data must be shared between providers. At the moment, different healthcare providers – GPs, specialist doctors and emergency departments at local hospitals – all separately collect information about the same patients.   This means that the services that a patient receives are generally uncoordinated. With the increase in chronic diseases, such as diabetes and eye-disease, coordinated care will lead to better health outcomes.   For providers to share data requires their computer systems to be able to send and receive data, and make sure that the data is added to the correct patient’s electronic record.   This is where the type of algorithms that power search engines such as Google – semantic web and information retrieval technologies – can be tailored for healthcare systems. Shared properly, the data can be used to make sure that patients receive appropriate services.   Sharing this data will also mean that there is a bigger volume of data about a patient with each healthcare provider. This will require computers to do more to analyse the data and alert patients, clinicians and health care providers when there should be follow up action.   More IT jobs needed in healthcare The increase in the use of digital technologies will not only boost healthcare. This is a sector where there will be a significant boost in the number of IT professionals, including data scientists, needed to work.   Big data analytics will be required to analyse the large volumes of different types of data that are being collected at an increasing rate.   But it is not just about applying these new technologies in healthcare. There is also a need to work with clinicians and health service executives to understand what data is – or could be – collected. This may lead to a new way of providing clinical care, a new health service, or even make existing processes more efficient.   For data analysts and IT professionals working in healthcare, the opportunities to make a difference to patients are almost boundless.   David Hansen is CEO, Australian e-Health Research Centre at CSIRO. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

THE NEWS WRAP: Ashton Kutcher launches new venture capital fund

3:30PM | Sunday, 15 March

Ashton Kutcher and his business partner Guy Oseary are launching a new venture capital fund called Sound Ventures.   TechCrunch reports the fund will be stage-agnostic, allowing the pair to invest in later-stage startups.   Kutcher has previously invested in companies such as Uber, Spotify and Airbnb through his first fund A-Grade Investments.   The actor and tech investor was in Australia last month for the Tech My Way conference, where he speculated that virtual and augmented reality, biotechnology and artificial intelligence were the next big things in tech. Controversial app developer slams critics An Aussie app developer who promised to give thousands of dollars to charity and was exposed for not handing over the money has hit back in a rambling Facebook post.   Belle Gibson, the founder of The Whole Pantry, solicited donations from around 200,000 people for various causes and said she would give away a quarter of her company’s profits – however, an investigation by The Age found no such contributions were ever made.   Now the entrepreneur has hit back, according to Fairfax, writing in a Facebook post that those who were speaking to the media about her were bullying “myself and my family”.   “I know the work my company and it’s [sic] contents did changed [sic] hundreds of thousands for the better,” she said. YouTube could be considering a subscription model for premium content YouTube could soon have its own paid video on demand service, according to The Verge.   The company is exploring the concept as a means to improve its bottom line and allow popular content producers to access a higher percentage of ad revenue.   The rumours come from an unnamed executive at a company that partners with YouTube to produce video content.   Competition between streaming providers has heated up in the past 12 months, with Netflix confirming it is launching in Australia on March 24 and taking on local companies Quickflix and EzyFlix. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 145.91 points, falling 0.82% overnight to 17,749.31. The Aussie dollar is currently trading at around 76.23 US cents.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

How the gender gap in venture capital funding can be tackled in 2015

1:48AM | Friday, 9 January

It’s no secret that more men receive venture capital than women.   In fact, a study by Harvard Business School has found venture capitalists prefer funding handsome men in comparison to female entrepreneurs – even when the content of their pitches is exactly the same.   Laura McKenzie, chief executive of Scale Investors, told StartupSmart Australian investors should be funding more women in 2015. She points to the Diana report, which found there is an “enormous untapped investment opportunity” for venture capitalists to fund women entrepreneurs.   The longitudinal study discovered that while only a small portion of early-stage investments go to female founders, venture capital-funded companies with women on the executive team perform better on multiple fronts.   “It makes economic sense to fund female entrepreneurs,” McKenzie says.   “Men and women approach investment decisions differently. Women tend to do more thorough due diligence, collaborate more closely, and when they invest, have patient capital focused on long-term goals.”   Dr Elaine Stead, investment director for Blue Sky Venture Capital, told StartupSmart she is starting to see more startups led by or including women – but would love to see more in 2015, particularly in sectors where there has historically been underrepresentation.   “For example, healthcare and biotechnology has long been an arena with a strong female representation at founder, CEO and senior management level but we are starting to see more female founders in sectors with historically lower female representation,” she says.   “I'm loathe to say ‘underrepresentation’ because not all sectors are equally appealing to all genders – some sectors will just naturally hold a gender bias. But if we look at tech for example, I think women represent close to half computer science graduates – there is no reason that shouldn't translate to the commercial ecosystem.”   “The strongest founder teams have complementary skills and expertise and diversity amongst the founder and or management teams provides a strong advantage.”   One way to ensure female entrepreneurs are funded, according to McKenzie, is to increase the number of female investors.   “Twenty per cent of the mainly female angel investors Scale has attracted, since its launch in July 2013, are senior female executives as opposed to experienced investors, entrepreneurs or non executives,” she says.   “These are educated, talented women bringing their skills and networks to boards of startup companies. They have joined Scale for the education opportunities, insights into the future economy and to diversity their current investment portfolio.”   However, McKenzie also points out that there are a range of other factors that need to be taken into account if the funding gap between men and women is to be reduced.   “Women are less likely to pitch in public forums, and more likely to do so in a collaboration way building one-to-one relationships,” she says.   “So the big-ticket competitions are most likely to be awarded to men – particularly if they are judged by men. Women are also much more likely to bootstrap for longer and are risk rational, so often only seek to raise funds when they are very confident they will be able to service debt or repay investor equity.”   McKenzie says while female entrepreneurs are – generally speaking – likely to start their startup from home, she is beginning to see this change with more women in tech co-working spaces.   “Those environments are becoming less ‘bro’ culture and in fact there are several female specific spaces launching,” she says.   Stead says her advice to female entrepreneurs looking to be funded is the same as for all entrepreneurs seeking capital: make sure you can articulate your product and the problem in a few sentences and approach investors “with the marathon not the sprint in mind”.   “Introduce yourselves and build a relationship before you need capital – we like to monitor teams in advance of their financing as this is the greatest way for us to assess how well entrepreneurs will deliver on what they say they will,” she says.   “Also talk to as many people as you can about your company and your product – market feedback is incredibly valuable and the referrals and connections this can trigger can be invaluable.” Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Nanotechnology to outer space: ten top tech innovations of 2014

12:41AM | Friday, 19 December

Don’t be mesmerised by cool apps and flashy new gizmos – the top technology inventions of the year are ones that will have a lasting effect.   Most are advances in fields that are already changing us. Some will have immediate impact; others are portents of transformations that may take decades to complete. In this vein, and in no particular order, here are what I consider to be ten of the best technological innovations from 2014.   1. DNA nanobots injected into cockroaches   Nanotechnology is a growing research field that manipulates materials on a molecular scale. One prospect is to transform medicine by injecting nanobots into the body where they perform functions such as treating disease.   In February, an Israeli team described devices they made from DNA and injected into cockroaches. By performing a kind of origami, the DNA nanobots assembled themselves and were able to control a molecule that targeted specific cells, so demonstrating their potential to carry out medical functions such as attacking cancers.   2. Nanotubes in chloroplasts created super plants   Nanotubes are large carbon molecules that form tubes with unusual thermal and electrical properties. In March, a team from MIT and CalTech published a method for inserting nanotubes into plant chloroplasts. The novel combination boosted photosynthesis and plant growth by several hundred percent.   Applications are still years away, but besides increasing plant growth and production, there are extraordinary possibilities: tapping plants for electrical power, building self-repairing materials and erecting buildings from materials that generate their own power.   3. Scallop-shaped robots swam through blood   Researchers at Germany’s Max Planck Institute developed tiny robots that could swim through the bloodstream, repairing tissue damage or transporting medicine.   The challenge they faced was blood’s viscosity: it not only impeded movement but also varied according to speed. They solved the problem by designing robots in the shape of scallops powered by an external magnetic field. These robots provide a starting point for many kinds of medical devices of the future.   4. A microchip helped a paralysed man regain the use of his arm   Implants are revolutionising the treatment of many medical conditions. In April, researchers at Ohio State University reported success in using a microchip implant to help a paralysed man regain use of his arm.   Ten years in development, the device, known as Neurobridge, stimulates muscles according to brain patterns. The innovation raises hopes for many disabled people. It showed that by plugging into our brainwaves we may one day control all manner of devices by thought alone.   5. Nose cells helped repair a severed spinal cord   Biotechnology is producing new cures for medical conditions long thought to be permanent. A medical team at Wroclaw Medical University cultured nerve cells taken from a patient’s nose and surgically inserted them into his spinal cord.   The transplanted cells stimulated severed nerve fibres to grow and rejoin, thus bridging a damaged section of the spinal column and allowing the patient to walk again. This innovation showed that damage to the nervous system can be reversed.   6. Unmanned drones: the future of delivery services   Unmanned flying drones are taking on a rapidly growing number of roles, especially in surveillance and monitoring. Following Chinese experiments last year to test drones as a delivery system for parcels, 2014 saw rapid expansion of serious business interest. In August, Google used a drone to deliver chocolates to a farm in Outback Queensland. By year’s end, Amazon, DHL and many others were scrambling to establish unmanned delivery services in several countries.   7. A swarm of self-assembling mini-robots   Robots are already important tools in many industries, but put them into swarms and they can do so much more. In August the journal Science reported work at Harvard in which 1,000 mini-robots, the largest swarm so far, was able to assemble itself into programmed shapes.   There is still a long way to go, but it raised the potential for structures that self-assemble, which would revolutionise construction.   8. 3D printers pushed the boundaries   3D printing is now an established technology, but developments this year expanded its capabilities and applications. At the one extreme a team in Amsterdam began a project to build an entire house using 3D printing.   Meanwhile researchers at Princeton developed a 3D printer that could print with five different materials, incorporating dot-emitting diodes, and demonstrated it by making contact lenses. This raises many possibilities, from wearable video to monitoring the health of pilots.   9. The next frontier in space exploration   Events this year highlighted the international character of solar system exploration in coming decades. Following a ten-year flight, European Space Agency’s probe Rosetta went into orbit around the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.   On November 12, it released the probe Philae which became the first spacecraft to land on a comet.   Meanwhile, Mars exploration moved forward. India’s Mangalyaan spacecraft went into orbit around Mars in September and in December, NASA successfully launched the new Orion spacecraft, a first step in preparing for manned exploration of Mars.   10. Green power and clean water   Necessity is the mother of invention, so the greater the need, the more important the invention. A worldwide need is the 780 million people around the world who lack access to clean water supplies. The challenge for inventors is to meet the World Health Organisation criteria for practical systems: accessible, simple and cheap.   One notable innovation this year was a portable new system called Sunflower developed in Switzerland. Easily transportable, it used sunlight to generate electricity, and at the same time provided heating, refrigeration for food and purified water.   What of next year? We can be sure that growing fields such as automation and nanotechnology will continue to surprise us. The US Patents Office granted more than 300,000 patents during 2013, nearly 30,000 more than 2012. If patents provide a reliable indicator, then new inventions are appearing faster than ever.   This article originally appeared at The Conversation.   Image credit: Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center

Australians love sports, it's time they love sports tech

10:29PM | Tuesday, 21 October

Internationally Australia is recognised as a sports leader, and there's an opportunity to use that reputation to help create a thriving sports technology industry, according to the Australian Sports Technology Network executive director Craig Hill.   "Looking at the journey we've been on the last three years, the ASTN and the sports technology industry didn't exist,” he says.   Hill says after the network had been established, it was fortunate to receive the support of industry and political figures, such as former Labor sports minister Kate Lundy.   "Six months after that we were very fortunate that Kate Lundy, who was the sports minister at the time, could see the advantage of creating an industry that leveraged off our global competitive advantage in sport: a new industry around ICT, manufacturing, and biotechnology."   A startup itself, the ASTN has had its fair share of hardships since creation. It looked like it was about to secure a $12 million investment, through a federal government industry program. However, a change of government saw that investment vanish.   "It was very, very exciting at the time, unfortunately after a change of government, caretaker periods, etc, that amounted to nothing," Hill says.   "We've certainly been on a roller coaster ride the last two and half years.   "We forged ahead and developed a number of really exciting partnerships."   Despite that setback, Hill says the ASTN is still very excited about the potential of the industry.   "Developing what's called a cluster of innovation, where you're not a vertical you're bringing all the key stakeholders together to create an industry and add value to what each of those organisations are doing.   "That's essentially what the ATSN has done and it's been part of its vision since day one."   The ASTN has been bringing together key stakeholders: startups, SMEs, manufacturers, the government and investors in an attempt to kick-start the industry.   "We continue to grow and nurture and are seeing increasing collaboration right across those key players," Hill says.   "You look at some of the leading industries and countries around the world, they have very strong clusters of innovation and we see ourselves building one in this capacity."

Four health tech startup competition finalists take home a $10,000 prize, as local sector gains critical mass

10:09AM | Tuesday, 14 October

The four finalists for the inaugural Janssen Health and Technology Challenge (HaTCH) have been named, with one of the judges saying Melbourne, in particular, is close to developing “a critical mass of ideas”.   Each of the four finalists receives $10,000 to go towards the further development of their concepts. They will further workshop their ideas with the judges in a full-day session on October 30, before pitching their ideas to the independent judging panel on December 2 for a chance to win $100,000 to commercialise their idea.   The judging panel includes World Medical Association council chair Mukesh Haikerwal and former General Practice Registrar Australia chief executive Amit Vohra. They are joined by Strativity Group Australia and New Zealand partner Cyrus Allen, Janssen Australia/New Zealand managing director Chris Hourigan and Muru-D’s Mick Liubinskas.   Vohra told Private Media health tech and biotech sectors have the potential to create a long-term home in Australia, but warned it’s still early days for the sector.   “For the first time, Australia is creating an ecosystem around health startups. A lot of innovative stuff comes out of Silicon Valley because you have a lot of startups in a small area,” Vohra says.   “As with most entrepreneurial activity, it needs a critical mass of ideas and Melbourne for the first time is starting to experience this.”   Vohra explains Australia has never been a natural hub for robotics because it never had a strong local robotics industry, and that much of the early use of devices such as Google Glass for therapeutic purposes has been in Silicon Valley.   Instead, he says the key strengths of the local health tech and biotechnology sector centre around data systems, data analysis, information sharing, wearables and nanotechnology.   “There’s a whole space around consumer wearables that kicked off in the past two years. Before that, there was the app revolution, and now we’re in the next phase of that, with wearables that log that information,” Vohra says.   “The next phase gets more sophisticated, where the information gets sent back to your medical practitioner, rather than just collected for lifestyle purposes.”   Vohra says another area Australian health tech startups are strong in is information sharing systems, which allow a patient’s electronics records to be stored in a single repository.   “Another area, and not just in Australia, is around information exchange. There’s a huge amount of fragmentation in information sharing across the health system,” he says.   “Your local general practitioner has a raft of information. But if you go somewhere else for a procedure, that information is sitting in a different silo.”   Storing information in a single repository allows for better quality of care at a lower cost, according to Vohra. This is because each intervention, whether it is delivered through a general practitioner, a hospital or a nursing home, will be logged in a single system, allowing medical professionals access to more accurate and complete data about a patient’s health.   The four 2014 HaTCH finalists, chosen from 40 entrants, are as follows:   1. Footprints: Falls in the elderly are often result to a deterioration of gait. The Footprint sensor will improve monitoring of gait levels and thereby allow intervening before a fall happens.   2. Life Picture: Chronic diseases involve changes to the molecular pathways of individuals. The Life Picture health monitoring system uses biomarkers and smartphone technology to improve early disease detection.   3. Respiro Flu Test: Seasonal influenza kills more Australians than car accidents. The Respiro Flu Test is the first non-invasive ultra-sensitive test for influenza infection in children and adults. It takes less than 20 minutes and detects all strains of human influenza including H1N1 and bird flu.   4. Track Active: Exercise is considered to be the single most important treatment modality for addressing chronic health and musculoskeletal problems. Track Active is a cloud based platform for health and medical professionals to efficiently prescribe customized, evidence-based exercise programs to assist patients in recovery.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Venture capitalist named as new CSIRO chief executive

10:45PM | Thursday, 9 October

In an interesting move, cementing the relationship between science innovation and commercialisation, CSIRO has appointed the managing director of Southern Cross Ventures Partners, Dr Larry Marshall as the new Chief Executive.   Marshall has been an inventor, with 20 patents protecting numerous commercial products generating over $200M in revenue; then an entrepreneur, raising over $100M in funding and creating companies with over $1B in market cap, and now an investor with $400M under management. He is co-Chairman of VC firm Blackbird and Brismat, a Brisbane based tech building material company.   He also serves on the boards of 20 high tech companies operating in US, Australia and China.   Chairman of the CSIRO Board, Simon McKeon says the appointment was made after an extensive global search for “an innovative scientist with strong business leadership qualities.”   “Dr Marshall has an impeccable record as a scientist, a technology innovator and business leader,” Mr McKeon says   “Dr Marshall combines commercial and scientific credentials with extensive global experience, making him the world class leader we were seeking for CSIRO.   "The Board is confident that Dr Marshall will lead CSIRO in a manner which ensures that it continues to provide advice of the highest quality to Government as well as provide best practice collaboration with the private sector.   Dr Marshall was educated at Macquarie University (Sydney) where he took a doctorate in physics.   He began his career in the Defence Science and Technology Organisation and has 25 years experience as an international technology entrepreneur and holds 20 patents protecting commercial products. He has founded six successful United States companies in biotechnology, photonics, telecommunications and semiconductors.   Dr Marshall will join CSIRO in January 2015.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Commercialisation Australia grants on hold: where the $200 million+ has gone

4:19AM | Thursday, 10 April

The federal government’s venture capital organisation is on hold, with the Department of Industry announcing applications will not be accepted or processed until after the May 2014 budget.   This is not the first time the Commercialisation Australia grants have been frozen pending a review, with an earlier freeze occurring in late 2012.   StartupSmart understands from several sources that there is concern within the department that a component for startups, rumoured to be the early stage commercialisation funding segment, may be abolished post-May.   To get a sense of the importance of Commercialisation Australia to the industry we took a look at its currents stats.   Commercialisation Australia chief executive Doron Ben-Meir also declined to comment on the speculation.   Since its inception, Commercialisation Australia has invested over $213 million in 503 companies (as of February 2014).   The organisation funds companies at four key stages. These include a grant of up to $50,000 to access specialist advice; up to $350,000 to hire experienced senior executives; up to $250,000 to prove commercial viability of an idea; and between $50,000 and $2 million to assist early stage commercialisation.   Queensland has received the most funding deals with 134, followed by New South Wales at 126, Victoria at 116, Western Australia 63, South Australia 34, Canberra 15, Tasmania 12 and the Northern Territory three.   Almost half of the funding (42%) went to manufacturing and engineering startups, 33% to software and web design, 13% computer systems and hardware and 12% biotechnology.   Government venture capital can be particularly potent in emerging ecosystems. For example, much of the investment in Perth tech companies so far has included backing by Commercialisation Australia.   Recent investments include admin efficiency app Breezedocs, workplace app SafetyCulture, customisable radio app Omny, campus surveillance app CriticalArc, and epublishing software LiquidState.   The full list of grant recipients, amounts and industries is here.

Co-working space for advanced technology start-ups launches in Melbourne

1:18AM | Wednesday, 8 January

A co-working space for start-ups in the advanced technology industries such as medical devices and nanotechnology has launched in Melbourne.   The Tap co-working space is an initiative of the Small Technologies Cluster, which has been running an incubator for similar start-ups for years.   STC’s head of marketing and business development, Laura Faulconer, told StartupSmart while start-ups all face similar challenges, advanced technology start-ups face complicated hurdles such as regulatory approval.   “We were looking at the emergence of co-working spaces globally and really recognise the value in that, but didn’t see any in Melbourne that really catered to the needs of the advanced tech sector,” Faulconer says. “If you’re a medical device start-up, it’s not as useful to set opposite to someone who is selling shoes online. There just aren’t the same synergies to work together.”   The space can fit up to “30 butts on seats” at any one time, but Faulconer says 30 is a conservative estimate of how many people will use the space as the majority of it will be flexible.   They will also run networking and education events in the space.   “We designed it promote that collaborative work environment that has been embraced by the digital start-up sector, but has been slower to emerge here. Some of that is about culture and personality of the people involved, so we’ve taken that into consideration when designing the space,” Faulconer says.   Advanced technologies also include biotechnology, life science and information technology.

State government funding for business

10:20AM | Tuesday, 8 October

Recently we looked at federal government grants available for small businesses and start-ups looking for funding support.   If businesses are looking at commercialising a product, conducting research and development or keen to branch out into export, there are a number of grant opportunities.   Here we cast our net wider and look at some state government grant programs that are also available to businesses based within their borders, as well as grants offered by capital cities that businesses may also be able to tap.   New South Wales Innovate NSW Minimum Viable Product: This scheme supports small to medium-sized technology businesses to engage with a potential customer. Successful applicants receive matched funding of 50% of project costs to a maximum of $15,000 to demonstrate an idea, prove a concept, develop a prototype or customise a solution.   Innovate NSW Collaborative Solutions: Here the government provides grants of up to 25% of project costs to a maximum of $100,000 to consortia to develop an innovative, new-to-market business-to-business solution. The program’s website says the consortia must include three entities: a technology SME with the ability to develop and commercialise the solution; a pilot business customer in a key sector that is willing to test the solution; and at least one partner that will provide additional technology, research capabilities, or assistance to scale the solution. It says the purpose of the program is to foster collaboration between industry partners toward delivering a compelling, new-to-market solution.   Innovate NSW TechVouchers: The program aims to help technology SMEs to collaborate with a NSW research organisation to overcome a technical challenge or test a new technology. It provides grants of up to $15,000 in matched funding.   For more grants, check out the state government’s trade and investment grants and funding page here.   Sydney   Sydney City Council also has a range of support programs including grants of up to $30,000 in matched funding to encourage small-scale businesses to use underused city spaces, up to $20,000 for events, and up to $6000 in matched funding for improving shopfronts.   Victoria   Innovation Voucher program: This program aims to support companies wanting to explore ways to improve their competitiveness and productivity. Under the Business R&D Voucher, businesses can apply for up to $25,000 while the Innovation Skills Voucher lets businesses apply for up to $10,000 to develop innovation relevant skills.   Employment Start-up For Business: The program helps businesses across Victoria hire unemployed young people and offers up to $4000 for each successful employment opportunity.   Technology Trade and International Partnering (TRIP) Program – Biotechnology and Small Technology: This program provides help for Victorian businesses to attend international conferences, trade events and regulatory authorities. It aims to support the growth and internationalisation of Victoria’s biotech and small tech companies.   More Victorian government grants can be found here.   Melbourne   Like its northern rival capital, Melbourne’s city council also provides a range of business support grants, but through its Enterprise Melbourne body. Some of the grants include funding of up to $30,000 to establish new and innovative businesses, up to $30,000 to expand existing businesses, and up to $10,000 to help enter and expand into overseas markets.   Queensland The Sunshine State won’t be left behind by the southern states when it comes to business grants. It offers a range of grants for businesses which can be found here.   Brisbane   Affectionately known as ‘Brisvegas’, Brisbane is developing a fertile start-up community. Helping with that is the Brisbane City Council’s Budding Entrepreneurs Program which offers $5000 to support digital start-ups.   South Australia Innovation Voucher Program: Like other states, South Australia has an innovation voucher scheme that encourages collaboration between SMEs and research and development organisations. In South Australia the scheme offers grants of $10,000-$20,000 to eligible research and development projects that partner with SMEs with an annual turnover less than $20 million.   Business Development Initiative (BDI) Grant: This grant is available to help start-up and early stage South Australian bioscience companies to develop their business model. Grants of up to $250,000 can be used for business planning, marketing and proof of commercial concept experiments.   Western Australia Designer Fashion Grants Program: Western Australia isn’t necessarily all about mining and digging holes in the ground. This program aims to help fashion designers and businesses to access commercial markets for their products. Grants can include funding of up to $20,000 to improve business viability, up to $10,000 for research and skills development, and up to $4000 to attend international fashion events.   Perth The Perth City Council also has a business grants program and offers funding of up to $2000 to small businesses in its local government area to help with starting a business, growing, or other creative business-related projects that benefit the city.   Tasmania Marketing Assistance Scheme: This scheme helps Tasmanian SMEs with turnover of $300,000-$15 million with marketing activities to develop national and international markets. The scheme provides assistance for advertising, develop promotional materials and travel.   Micro Business Loan Program: The program is aimed at helping people to start a business or grow their existing business. It’s also available to people on low incomes with Health Care Cards and provides small, interest-free loans.   Tasmanian Government Innovation and Investment Fund: Launched last year, the fund helps Tasmanian businesses to accelerate their growth. It provides one-off project grants of up to $250,000 per project to eligible applicants who have a project that, primarily, leads to improved competitiveness and efficiencies, increased exports or import replacement and demonstrated innovation in Tasmanian business practice.   Further help: Another resource for finding government business grants is the federal government’s grants and assistance finder here.

Australian biotechnology industry calls for more support from super funds

4:35PM | Tuesday, 9 April

Above: AusBiotech chief executive Dr Anna Lavelle.   Superannuation funds have been urged to offer more support to Australian biotechnology companies, amid fears they risk being sold cheaply to overseas investors.   According to Jeremy Curnock Cook, managing director of biotechnology fund BioScience Managers, the Australian biotechnology industry needs more support from local super funds.   Curnock Cook told The Australian there is not enough capital available to support innovative biotech companies.   As a result, these companies “run halfway round the track and still had the other half to go”.   “When they finally run out of money, they will be sold for cents in the dollar… What is the point of selling chunks of assets to foreign investors when you shouldn’t have to?” he said.   Dr Anna Lavelle (pictured above), chief executive of Australian biotechnology organisation AusBiotech, told StartupSmart she agrees with Curnock Cook’s views and concerns.   “I add my voice to the growing chorus of eminent Australians who believe that the government has a role to play in encouraging the superannuation industry to invest in next generation industries, which require a long-term view of sustainability and growth,” Lavelle says.   “Australia’s fast-growing superannuation funds – the world’s fourth largest pool of managed funds – totals $1.3 trillion at present and is expected to grow to $3 trillion by 2022.   “Even a tiny fraction of a percentage invested in innovation can support the building of a knowledge-based economy, leading to jobs and wealth creation.   “A tiny portion of the country’s superannuation ‘nest egg’ directed to innovation and biotechnology would give invaluable support to the growth of innovation-based industries.”   Super funds tend to steer clear of biotech companies because they are considered high risk.   Rather than distributing money to all biotech companies, Curnock Cook said super funds could invest in specialised managed biotech funds, which in turn invest in local and foreign companies.   He said the investment risk could be lower if the biotech companies targeted by specialised biotech funds have already advanced to clinical trials on patients.

Five niche crowdfunding sites on the stump for start-ups

3:47AM | Wednesday, 20 March

A new crowdfunding platform aimed solely at local sporting clubs has highlighted the growth of niche crowdfunding websites, suggesting there are opportunities for other start-ups to specialise.   Sportaroo, which has a team of six based in Australia and the United Kingdom, allows sports teams to raise funds for team projects by offering merchandise, experiences and sponsorship.   According to Sportaroo spokesperson Jim May, it’s been an exciting few weeks.   “Our first campaign for the Australian Women’s Olympic Bobsled Team is going great guns and is close to achieving its target,” May wrote on Silicon Beach Australia.   “The girls are offering all sorts of supporter packs including great value sponsorship and the chance to ride in an Olympic bobsled.”   Sportaroo isn’t the first start-up to carve a niche in the increasingly popular crowdfunding space. Here are a few others that are homing in on specific areas.   Start Music   Unlike Pozible – which encompasses all kinds of creative projects and ideas – Start Music is aimed solely at Australian music artists, allowing them to connect with fans and fund music.   “A lot of musicians and artists haven’t heard of the concept of crowdfunding but I find they get it very quickly when I start explaining it,” founder Andrew Sellen told StartupSmart in July 2011.   “I’m also going to have a system of milestones rather than a simple success/failure system… so fans are still engaged in helping them reach their 100% target.   “My marketing strategy will revolve around contacting the sort of artists I’d like to see on the site. I’d like to see bands on there that are buzz bands – newer bands but growing in popularity.”   StartSomeGood   StartSomeGood is a US-based platform for social good initiatives to raise funds and grow a community of supporters.   According to its Australian co-founder Tom Dawkins, StartSomeGood is “Kickstarter but for social change”, which is “lowering the barriers [for] people… who want to make a difference”.   “Currently, you’re told you have to register as a charity before you can access most fundraising platforms, which builds in costs and delays, and excludes social enterprises,” Dawkins told StartupSmart in January last year.   Dawkins – who is part of the Australian delegation for the 2013 G20 Young Entrepreneurs’ Alliance Summit – said StartSomeGood enables social enterprises to raise funds “based on their vision, plan and credibility, not their tax status”.   GoFundMe   US-based crowdfunding platform GoFundMe, which was founded by Brad Damphousse and Andrew Ballester, has been described as “Kickstarter for the rest of us”.   GoFundMe is a do-it-yourself online fundraising service, which helps people raise substantial amounts of money in online donations for their various causes.   In September last year, it was revealed GoFundMe will launch a new partner program, which will see it partner with organisations whose members raise funds through the site.   GoFundMe already takes a 5% cut of all funds raised on its platform. Through this program, it will split that with the organisations it partners with.   This means GoFundMe and Member Networks will each receive 2.5% of the funds raised in associated campaigns.   Seedstarter   Realising that scientists regularly look for funding in order to commercialise their innovations – but are often underwhelmed when communicating with investors – Michael Dawson and Stephen DeVilliers created a crowdfunding site specifically for the science sector.   “Seed Starter is all about getting the community involved and interested in science,” the website says.   “We’re interested in research projects from all fields of science including biology, biotechnology, nanotechnology, astronomy, technology, engineering, social science, medicine, agriculture and many more. We are looking for projects from researchers with affiliations at universities, nonprofits or other research institutions. This includes tenured faculty, post-docs, and graduate students. We also accept proposals from industry bodies.”

Closing date looms for female-focused Springboard program

3:51AM | Monday, 11 March

Female entrepreneurs in high-growth sectors are being encouraged to submit an application to Springboard Enterprises, which aims to help them secure funding from local and US investors.

Victorian Govt unveils $8 million Technology Voucher Program

3:13AM | Monday, 11 March

The Victorian Government has unveiled the $8 million Technology Voucher Program in a bid to drive the use of cutting-edge technologies, offering vouchers worth up to $250,000.

Going local for your start-up funding

3:12AM | Friday, 15 March

Frankston City Council recently announced a new grant scheme for start-ups, one of the few local councils around the country to offer grants to early stage ventures.

10 top government grants for start-ups

5:59AM | Tuesday, 27 May

Government grants are notoriously hard to snare for start-up businesses and can involve completing a mountain of time-sapping paperwork in the application process.

Advance awards program looks to boost university innovation

8:08PM | Monday, 13 August

Advance, the Federal Government-backed network of Australians living overseas, has launched an awards program aimed at boosting innovation within Australian universities.

University R&D grants dwindle as industrial research forges on

7:07AM | Monday, 30 July

The scope of a competitive grants scheme has been questioned after it was revealed university research and development supporting grants totalled $22 million less in 2012 than in 2011, despite the government’s heavy focus on this area.

Facebook investor Peter Thiel launches $402 million global VC firm

6:33PM | Thursday, 21 June

Early Facebook investor Peter Thiel has used the fortune he made from Facebook’s IPO to launch a new $402 million venture capital firm, which is looking globally for potential deals.

UniQuest strikes US innovation partnership deal on behalf of UQ professor

6:11PM | Wednesday, 20 June

A University of Queensland associate professor will collaborate with a US biotech company on an innovative biofuel production system, thanks to an R&D contract facilitated by UniQuest.