The federal government’s replacement for Commercialisation Australia has adopted recommendations from tech startup advocates, according to StartupAus.
Industry minister Ian Macfarlane late last week revealed Accelerating Commercialisation as the final measure under the Australian Government’s $482.2 million Entrepreneurs’ Infrastructure Programme.
Startups eligible for the new program can receive matching grants worth up to $1 million, as well as expert advice and connections, Macfarlane said.
The government announced the Entrepreneurs’ Infrastructure Programme in May after shuttering the Labor party’s Commercialisation Australia, which was a $213 million grants program for startups.
StartupAus, a group formed by Google Australia director of engineering, Alan Noble, and several big players in Australia's startup scene, at the time condemned the government for removing “a vital lifeline” for startups.
It’s too early to say whether the new program will be a suitable replacement for Commercialisation Australia, said StartupAus board member Peter Bradd. However, he praised the government for its engagement with the tech startup sector.
Bradd said that the government agreed to requests by StartupAus that the new program’s $1 million funding cap not be specific to any sector and that the government take experts’ opinions into account when awarding grants.
“We’re really happy that the government is starting to work more closely with the tech startup sector and listen to the submissions that we put in,” he said.
Macfarlane said Accelerating Commercialisation will play a key part in spurring Australian innovation.
“Australia has some of the best researchers, inventors and entrepreneurs in the world, but our track record of turning great ideas into commercial products is not as good as it could be, or as good as it should be if we are to keep pace in evolving global markets.
“Accelerating Commercialisation will help innovative Australian businesses to tackle the challenges they come up against in commercialising new ideas, by providing access to the expert advice, experience and networks crucial for attracting investment and getting new ideas into the marketplace.”
The announcement followed the October reveal of the government’s competitiveness agenda, which included a long-sought overhaul of the way employee share options are taxed, $188 million for industry growth centres and $12 million for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education.
“The competitiveness agenda was terrific news for Australian tech startups,” said Bradd, highlighting the share options change as a major win.
“It’s good to see the Australian government remove some of those impediments and allow us to play by the same rules.”
StartupAus is focussed now on seeking a regulatory environment that supports crowdsourced equity funding for startups, said Bradd. The group is also asking state governments and Education Minister Christopher Pyne to approve a digital curriculum, he said.
“We need to see kids taught how to code in school,” he said. “We’re very far behind.”