Labor pledges to redirect government funding of StartupAUS into regional innovation

Ed Husic

Labor says it will redirect $360,000 in government funding for peak industry body StartupAUS into regional innovation development if it wins the upcoming July election.

The government recently announced it would be providing up to $360,000 in funding to the lobby group to produce up to six research reports on different issues in the sector, a move that was heavily criticised for potentially jeopardising the group’s independence.

Shadow spokesperson for startups Ed Husic has announced that Labor would still provide this funding to StartupAUS but it would be used to “map out the strongest possible pathways for increasing the role of regional Australia in the nation’s innovation effort”.

Labor announced last year that it would create a $16 million Regional Innovation Fund to build up to 20 new regional innovation hubs, provide seed funding to startups and build local expertise.

Husic says the repurposed funding for StartupAUS would go towards “devising a strategy to boost the emergence of regionally-based innovation communities” and helping to direct Labor’s funding for regional innovation.

“With two-thirds of new early-stage innovation firms emerging from Sydney, a greater focus needs to be placed on plans to involve the entire country in our nation’s innovation push,” Husic says.

“Federal Labor has taken the view that this grant needs sharper focus on work that will have a meaningful impact: mapping out ways for regional Australia to generate new firms and jobs beyond a few metropolitan cities.”

Husic has previously claimed that government funding of StartupAUS would compromise the group’s independence.

StartupAUS CEO Alex McCauley says he’s open to working with either side of politics, although the group will still decide what it researches.

“As always, our board of directors ultimately drives the research priorities of StartupAUS,” McCauley says.

“We look forward to working with whichever party forms the next government to agree on areas of importance to the national startup ecosystem, and to helping deliver insights into those areas.”

The government has already commissioned two StartupAUS reports on culture and entrepreneurship and an international analysis of entrepreneurial programs, with the first expected to be delivered by October.

Despite these reports now being in jeopardy, McCauley says it’s positive that both major parties are focusing on startups and innovation.

“We’re excited to be in a position where both sides of politics are passionate about commissioning credible, independent research into how to take this vital area of economic policy forward,” he says.

“StartupAUS will continue to work with both sides of politics to inform and advocate for the strongest possible startup policy outcomes.”

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Denham Sadler is the editor of StartupSmart. He was previously a journalist at the publication and has worked as a freelancer for the Guardian, the Saturday Paper and the ABC. In his spare time he likes puns and jaffles.
  • Daniel Mumby

    It’s hard to see how this policy -decentralizing away from major cities -will work. Innovation success requires collaboration within networks that have achieved critical mass. And it’s unlikely that in a town like say Bendigo of 80,000 people would have the people with the base of skills, experience, expertise, track record, and knowledge around innovation in large enough volumes to achieve that critical mass. It’s unlikely that aspiring entrepreneurs will relocate away from these networks that exist in the major capitals (as well as the customer networks) to attend these hubs, and nor would the mentors, who typically have other interests.

    So you will end up with providers in the areas where those networks exist, forging ahead with disruptive innovation projects anyway. Meanwhile the centers in regional areas (with support from the government) will initially support incremental small business ideas, which won’t ever be able move the needle in large enough numbers to have any impact on jobs, innovation or disruptive growth.
    Just another misguided policy by out-of-touch politicians, playing to a political base with a policy that just won’t work. Whoever they are getting their advice from should take a couple of Bex & have good long lie down, before thinking through what it is that they really Wang to achieve with a supportive innovation policy.