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Queensland government places startups front and centre of new economic policy

Tuesday, 14 July 2015 | By Denham Sadler
Startups have been placed front and centre in the Queensland government’s state budget, with a $24 million cash injection aiming to nurture the state’s entrepreneurs.


On Monday state premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced the Startup Queensland program, which aims to “increase startup formation and attraction”.


“Startups can reshape entire industries through technology and business model innovation,” Palaszczuk said in a speech on Monday. “They are vital to job creation and prosperity – in fact studies have found that each technology job created leads to five additional jobs in other sectors.”


“By making innovation and knowledge-based industries a key focus of this government, we are intent on delivering a new era of opportunity for Queenslanders,” she said.


Colin Kinner, the director of Queensland-based Spike Innovation and the author of StartUpAUS’ recent Crossroads 2015 report, says the program is a move in the right direction.


“It’s extremely positive, I don’t think there’s any other way to look at it,” Kinner says.


“It’s a reasonable amount of money committed to pretty targeted programs, and there’s no evidence of confusion between startups and small business.”


The funding is part of the government’s flagship $180 million Advance Queensland initiative which was announced Monday, on the eve of the budget unveiling.


Also included in the plan is a $76 million Business Investment Attraction package which the government hopes will also encourage a new wave of Queensland startups.


“Advance Queensland is not only at the core of tomorrow’s Budget, but I believe it’s at the core of our state’s economic agenda,” Palaszczuk said.


“We can’t just follow the pack – we need to lead the pack.”


The Startup Queensland program will focus on making scientific ideas and technologies ready for investment.


This movement from an idea to a viable startup is a big problem in Queensland at the moment, Kinner says, and the increased funding might entice some to enter this world.


“It’s potentially a pretty big step towards encouraging people to start the journey,” he says.


“We have too few startup founders and too many people with ideas who haven’t actually committed to executing them.”


The government is pushing to shape the state as an attractive place to home a startup and create a “thriving startup culture” in the process.


“Unfortunately, only seven percent of Australia’s tech startups are in Brisbane,” Palaszczuk said.


“We want to work with existing incubators and accelerator programs to provide an integrated suite of seed funding, co-working space, mentoring, and connection to customers and markets.”


Kinner says the only thing missing from the government’s initiative is a focus on entrepreneurial education.


“That’s something that needs to ideally be starting in primary school, with an emphasis on high school and university,” he says.


“I see a lot of startup owners who are a recent graduate, and they have to spend the first six to 12 months learning some basic principles. That’s not good.”


Kinner says the government has addressed many of the recommendations that were made in it.


“It’s encouraging to see multiple parts of government start to act on the recommendations,” Kinner says. “It’s pleasing to see people have read it, and thought about which bits they can act on.”


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