NSW minister reckons innovation runs in Australia's DNA

NSW Minister for Trade, Tourism and Major Events Stuart Ayres has said that innovation is ingrained in the DNA of Australians as the nation has always found a way to 'make things happen'.

With a changing economy, a national innovation agenda, and a plethora of startup hubs, the New South Minister for Trade, Tourism and Major Events Stuart Ayres has said innovation is in Australia's DNA.

"The landscape in the Australian economy is changing and it's changing at a rapid rate and one of the great things about being a country that had its start to life in a remote location, is a requirement to find a way to make things happen," Ayres said.

"It is my firm belief that the idea of innovation is built into our DNA as a country. We've always been able to find a way to make things happen and we've always been a great country for accepting new technology and new ideas."

Speaking at the Stone & Chalk Fintech Asia launch in Sydney on Wednesday, Ayres declared Sydney the place to be when it comes to fintech.

With both tourism and trade falling under his portfolio, Ayres highlighted that the three startups from China kicking off the program were not in Sydney for the tourism, noting instead they are here for the trade opportunities that exist.

"What I can say with absolute confidence, because I've heard it in Singapore, I've heard it in Kuala Lumpur, I heard it in Seoul last week, I heard it in Tokyo last week, I've heard it in the United States and that is that the Stone & Chalk brand is reverberating around the world," he said.

Additionally, Ayres believes that Sydney is one of the most dynamic financial services and fintech ecosystems found anywhere in the world.

"My strong sense is that the global economic centre of gravity has shifted away from places like the United States and London to a line on the earth that runs somewhere between Shanghai and Sydney and picks up half of the world's GDP, it also picks up the fastest growing middle class, and it also picks up the fastest growing group of people in the world that is taking technology into every single format of their life," Ayres said.

"I reckon that place is Sydney as the ideal location to grow a business."

When it comes to the topic of collaboration and working with startups in a space such as Stone & Chalk, Ayres highlighted its importance.

"It's absolutely pointless if you're the guy with 80 percent of the solution and there's another person over there with 20 percent of the solution and you spend all of your time trying to find the gap," he said.

"It's so much easier just to come together, have 100 percent of the solution, and allow your business and your ecosystem to continue to thrive. That's exactly what this Asia connect program is about."

Stone & Chalk's 12-week Fintech Asia program was announced in February by the startup hub's CEO Alex Scandurra, Australian Treasurer Scott Morrison, and New South Wales Premier Mike Baird, aiming to establish Sydney as a leading fintech hub in Asia.

"We recognise the importance of trying to connect together the fintech ecosystem across Asia and Sydney is playing a leading role in Australia in terms of the development of the leading fintech ecosystem in this country and we see that there's a great opportunity for us to help startups, to help investors, to help corporates that are looking to collaborate with leading fintech startups across the region to work together and seamlessly connect across key markets in Asia," Scandurra said Wednesday.

"It's rare to find federal and state arms of politics collaborating with the private sector on an initiative and here we've achieved that."

Previously, Baird said he believes the state will shape the economic future of the country, saying his government is aiming to ensure Sydney is known as the startup city of Australia.

"The finance and insurance sector has been a key performer in the economy both in Australia, but particularly in NSW, which is the home of the finance sector," he said. "NSW has been part of that overall story, and I will argue to you that [NSW] is the engine room of growth here in Australia."

Stone & Chalk opened its doors in May last year, with Amazon, American Express, AMP, ANZ, Westpac, Oracle, Macquarie Group, and Woolworths among the founding partners that contributed more than AU$2 million towards the launch.

Former AMP chief executive and Stone & Chalk chairmain Craig Dunn said at the time he wanted the not-for-profit fintech hub to become the heart of fintech in Australia and hopefully Asia.

"Digital disruption is transforming the financial services industry, and there is much to be gained through greater collaboration between stakeholders in the fintech ecosystem. We are focused on bringing to life our vision for Sydney's fintech hub to support startups compete, thrive, and lead on a world stage."


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