Australian government delivers AU$14m funding boost to startup program

An additional 24 Australian companies will have the opportunity to commercialise their projects as part of the federal government's AU$14.6 million investment into the Entrepreneurs' Programme.

The Australian government will be delivering a funding boost of AU$14.6 million to an additional 24 Australian companies to commercialise their projects under the Entrepreneurs' Programme.

Some of the funding will go towards companies such Cloud Data Centre, which will receive AU$1 million to develop a cloud computer platform that provides the IT tools needed for businesses to deliver and store an IT environment anytime, anywhere, and on any device. Another AU$1 million will be awarded to Leighton O'Brien Field Services to deliver an underground fuel storage integrity management system; and Project Match Australia will receive AU$199,413 to pilot test a new software product that matches workers to projects.

Industry and Science Minister Ian Macfarlane said the funding will offer a real boost to business competitiveness, and represents a strong investment in Australia's growth sectors.

"Australia needs to turn our great ideas into commercial products to keep up with the global economy," he said.

"The government's Entrepreneurs' Programme supports innovation in Australian businesses, and helps them overcome commercialisation challenges when bringing novel products, processes, and services into the marketplace.

"Commercialisation drives business growth and competitiveness while also delivering national economic benefits by helping to ensure that Australia's wealth of intellectual property is more effectively commercialised."

He added that this latest announcement brings the the total amount of commercialisation investments the government has made since April this year to over AU$30 million, with 55 companies benefiting from the program's funding.

The Entrepreneurs' Programme is an initiative designed by the Australian government to boost business competitiveness and productivity at the firm level. It forms part of the Australian government's industry policy outlined in the Industry Innovation and Competitiveness Agenda released last October. As part of the agenda, then-Prime Minister Tony Abbott said it was part of the federal government's move to "strengthening Australia's competitiveness".

"Entrepreneurs and startups are important for testing new ideas, developing new products, and implementing new business models, and international research suggests that companies in which employees have an ownership interest are more productive than those that do not," he said at the time.

The federal government has been recently working closely with Australia's startup ecosystem. For example, the Department of Industry and Science in partnership with IP Australia released a toolkit for collaboration last week to help small to medium enterprises (SMEs), publicly funded organisations, and individual researchers to improve the use of intellectual property.

Meanwhile, last month, the Australian government issued a consultation paper that outlined its draft crowdsourced equity funding legislative framework for public companies. It discussed issues that would arise in any crowdfunding model for proprietary companies, and the potential democratisation of the venture capital model.

Earlier this year, the government also decided to pass the Tax and Superannuation Laws Amendment (Employee Share Schemes) Bill 2015 to allow startups to issue options or shares to employees at a small discount.

Australia's startup advocacy group StartupAUS CEO Peter Bradd expressed on Tuesday that he hopes to see the efforts made by the federal government to continue with Malcolm Turnbull sworn in as Australia's 29th prime minister.

"As Australia enters a new era of growth, technology-based startups have the potential to transform the economy and create the jobs of the future," Bradd said.

"In the next two decades, startups have the potential to contribute up to AU$109 billion in growth to the economy, and create 540,000 new jobs.

"StartupAUS is committed to continuing its work with government to boost Australia's prosperity and modernise its economy through a well supported and thriving tech startup ecosystem."