Victoria pledges AU$60 million to state startup initiative

Victoria's state Budget for 2015-16 has confirmed the new Labor government's move to pump AU$60 million into establishing a startup initiative, as it moves to prepare the state's workforce for an increasingly knowledge-based economy.

The Victorian government has pledged AU$60 million to a state startup initiative in its 2015-16 Budget, handed down on Tuesday by Treasurer Tim Pallas.

The state government confirmed that it would establish a body to support the development and delivery of innovative ideas in Victoria, with the new initiative aimed at helping startups get off the ground.

"By developing business cases, dealing with governments, providing intellectual property and patent advice, and helping manage finances, the new startups centre will power Victorian entrepreneurship," said the Budget overview document.

The government's plan to establish an initiative to help 120 startups was first foreshadowed by the state government's Minister for Small Business, Innovation, and Trade Adem Somyurek at the Connect 2015 event in Melbourne last month.

Tuesday's Budget -- the first to be handed down by Premier Daniel Andrews' Labor government -- comes as the government makes moves to prepare Victoria's workforce for an increasingly knowledge-based economy.

The startup initiative funding is part of the AU$508 million the government has pledged for the Premier's Jobs and Investment Fund, which it said will give the state's most senior economic and business leaders a say at the heart of the government, in order to help create high-skill, high-wage jobs.

The government is moving to position Victoria as a high-skill, high-wage economy, commencing with the establishment of a AU$200 million Future Industries Fund.

This fund will offer grants of up to AU$1 million to companies working in the six industries identified by the government as being poised for extraordinary growth, including medical technology and pharmaceuticals, new energy technology, transport, and defence and construction technology.

The Budget also allocates AU$35.4 million to upgrade the regional police radio system from the outdated analogue network to a secure, encrypted digital network that is expected to prevent eavesdropping.

Victoria will also see the establishment of a new one-stop shop for government services, to be called Services Victoria. The Budget commits AU$15 million to the project, which will see Services Victoria provide a whole-of-government approach to its services delivery through a single web portal -- much like Service NSW.

The government said the Budget will produce an operating surplus of AU$1.2 billion, and it is forecast to reduce net debt to 4.4 percent of gross state product by June 2019.

"We have our challenges, but this Budget sends us out to meet them. It's about finding opportunity, investing in the industries where we can lead the world. The mining sector isn't driving this country anymore. There's more demand for services, technology, and expertise," said Pallas.

The Budget's AU$60 million commitment to the startup community comes as New South Wales Minister for Finance, Services, and Property Development Dominic Perrottet calls for governments in Australia to do more on a regulatory basis to accommodate and integrate emerging tech startups in the local market.

"It makes little sense for governments on one hand to be preaching sustainability whilst at the same time trying to suppress companies that promote better utilisation of existing assets, like cars, housing, or parking spots," he said at the CeBIT IT conference in Sydney on Tuesday.

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