Gilmore exits AIC with sobering assessment for start-ups


Rowan Gilmore has quit his post as the chief executive of the Australian Institute for Commercialisation, admitting that conditions for start-ups haven’t greatly improved during his tenure.


Gilmore says he will be “looking for a new challenge” after departing the AIC. Dr John Kapeleris, currently deputy chief executive, will be interim CEO of the organisation.


During Gilmore’s tenure, nearly 2,000 businesses have received help getting their ideas to market, via programs such as TechFast, Tech Clinic and Commercialisation Bootcamps.


However, Gilmore says he “isn’t sure” if overall assistance for Australian start-ups had noticeably improved during his time at the helm.


“If you look at Commercialisation Australia, it has just a fraction of the funding it used to,” he says.


“Business investment in R&D has doubled over the last decade, which is positive, but when you look at the number of companies now competing and the common IP used by many of them, it’s hard to create new start-up companies.”


Gilmore says the venture capital system in Australia is “broken” for businesses seeking early-stage funding.


“A large number of investors are retreating and the amount of dollars going into early-stage start-ups is reduced, which is horrible,” he says.


“The returns for VCs in the last 20 years or so haven’t been good. There’s always space for biotech start-ups in their portfolios, but other businesses, such as serviced-based businesses, will struggle.”


David Barbagallo, chair of the AIC, paid tribute to Gilmore, saying: “Rowan has been a superb and effective leader of the AIC, motivating his team of business experts to assist entrepreneurs, researchers, and small business in the commercialisation of their IP.


“Since Rowan joined the AIC, his team has helped more than 2,000 companies, educated nearly 3,000 individuals through its Commercialisation Bootcamps and Ideas2Market programs, and put together over 200 collaborations between industry and research organisations or other businesses, and helped establish new value chains in sectors such as clean tech, energy, and agriculture.”