​Australia to launch startup landing pad in Singapore

The Australian government has revealed Singapore as the fifth and final location for its AU$11 million startup landing pad initiative.
Written by Asha Barbaschow, Contributor

The Australian government has confirmed Singapore as the next location for its AU$11 million startup landing pad initiative, aimed at helping Australian entrepreneurs bring their ideas to market.

According to the government, entrepreneurs accessing the landing pad will be assisted to commercialise their products and services through access to the expertise, infrastructure, innovation, and marketing networks of local partners.

A landing pad in the city-state will assist startups to "think global" by linking them to entrepreneur and capital networks, and industry value chains. The government also expects Singapore's startup climate will accelerate the business development and growth of Australian startups.

The landing pad announcement comes as the federal government signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Singapore government to enhance collaboration, exchanges, and agency-to-agency innovation and science engagement between both countries.

With Australia coming in at seventh place in the 2015 Global Innovation Index, 10 spots behind Singapore, it is expected the countries will leverage each other's innovation ecosystem through organisations such as the CSIRO and the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), Singapore's lead public sector research agency.

Under the MoU, Singapore will invest SG$25 million over five years, and Australia will match the funding through both government and non-government sources.

On June 29, 2015, Australia and Singapore signed a Joint Declaration on the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership (CSP). Since then, both governments have embarked on a 10-year plan that includes the acceleration of joint collaboration in innovation, science, research, and technology, which Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said capitalises on both countries' respective and complementary strengths.

"Over the past half century, Australia and Singapore have grown ever closer, recognising our common future as Asia-Pacific nations," Turnbull said. "This initiative will support emerging Australian technology companies to gain a foothold in Singapore, and the wider Asian market."

The inaugural landing pad was unveiled in February, with the government selecting Silicon Valley's RocketSpace technology campus to kick off the initiative.

Tel Aviv was then announced as the second host city for the government-funded project; Shanghai was unveiled as the desired location for the third landing pad, and just last week Berlin was revealed as the fourth location.

Each of the five landing pads will have its own locally engaged coordinator who the government said will bring their unique knowledge and experience to the table. It is expected a tender for the five roles will be published soon.

The landing pad initiative was announced in December and forms part of the government's AU$1.1 billion National Science and Innovation Agenda.

At the time, Turnbull said the billion-dollar promise would be used to incentivise innovation and entrepreneurship, reward risk taking, and promote science, maths, and computing in schools.

"Australia is falling behind on measures of commercialisation and collaboration, consistently ranking last or second last among OECD countries for business-research collaboration," he said. "Our appetite for risk is lower than in comparable countries, which means Australian startups and early stage businesses often fail to attract capital to grow."

Sydney-based Gemstar Technology took six Australian startups on a trade mission to Singapore in March to find funding, business partners, and customers.

At the time, Gemstar's founder Gemma Manning said Singapore was a region where the government has invested years into becoming Southeast Asia's Silicon Valley, pumping a total of AU$1.72 billion into innovation alone.

"I feel positive and more inspired by what we are doing now as a nation in terms of innovation. But we have a long way to go and I think countries like Singapore can't be ignored when we are looking at policy and how to create these ecosystems," Manning said.

"The funding environment is very attractive, as is the drive for public-private partnerships. They want to commercialise technology to help drive their future income."

Manning also said she hoped the Australian government would select Singapore to set up a landing pad.

In a bid to strengthen ties with China, the federal government announced six new Joint Research Centres in April to address challenges both countries face in the marine science, food and agribusiness, and mining equipment technology and services sectors.

At a cost of AU$5.95 million, the six virtual centres will be funded for three years under the Australia-China Science and Research Fund, which supports strategic science, technology, and innovation collaboration considered of mutual benefit to both countries.

When announcing Shanghai as the desired location for a landing pad, Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science Christopher Pyne said the city was being positioned by the Chinese government as a global centre for technology, innovation, and entrepreneurship.

He said a landing pad in Shanghai would further strengthen Australia's trade relationship with China, and the city's history of commerce and entrepreneurship makes it a good entry point to the huge Chinese market.

Similarly, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk signed an agreement in April with the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology, the government agency responsible for steering China's science and technology development.

Under the agreement, Queensland entrepreneurs and researchers will take part in placements within China's science and technology incubators, at a rate of eight per year, for the next three years.

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