Commonwealth launches first landing pad in Silicon Valley

The federal government has geared up to send its first lot of entrepreneurs to Silicon Valley, launching its inaugural landing pad aimed at putting startups in a position to leverage international success.
Written by Asha Barbaschow, Contributor

The federal government kicked off its AU$11 million startup landing pad initiative on Friday, launching the first of five pads at RocketSpace technology campus in San Francisco.

Minister for Trade and Investment Steve Ciobo said the landing pad is designed to help Australian entrepreneurs bring their ideas to market and build high-growth and high-return enterprises.

"It will provide Australian tech startups with a collaborative workspace, allowing them to pursue international opportunities. The next Atlassian, 99 Designs, or Hydrus could be launched from here," Ciobo said.

RocketSpace has been working with tech startups and corporate innovation professionals since 2011, offering services such as office-as-a-service, accelerator-like programming, consulting, and events.

The government expects RocketSpace will accelerate Australia's access to international business networks, entrepreneurial talent, business development, and investors by creating a unique ecosystem for innovation to thrive.

Speaking on ABC RN Breakfast Radio from San Francisco Friday morning, Assistant Minister for Innovation Wyatt Roy said that RocketSpace -- with an alumni including the likes of Spotify and Uber -- will be used by Australian startups for an approximate three-month period.

Roy said Australia is yet to have the networking density that Silicon Valley has, adding that RocketSpace is a location they can run really large networking events from.

"It's a place that we can ensure the likes of Google, Facebook, Airbnb, or others come in and see some of these startups and potentially invest in them," Roy said. "Hopefully in some cases acquiring them which helps them grow at a very fast rate."

Each of the five landing pads -- one in Tel Aviv and a few locations throughout Asia and possibly Europe -- will have its own locally engaged coordinator who the government said will bring their unique knowledge and experience to the table.

"The person that will be coordinating this will be [determined] by going out to an open tender. My hope is that we get a pretty successful entrepreneur who is connected to the networks over here to fill that role," Roy said to the ABC.

"It's a pretty exciting role, it's a job I wouldn't mind having -- so we'll go out to market to fill that physical role."

The AU$11 million cash injection given to Austrade for these landing pads forms part of the government's AU$1.1 billion National Innovation and Science Agenda.

In December, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull pledged a total of $36 million over five-years for its Global Innovation Strategy, aimed at improving Australia's international innovation and science collaboration.

"Innovation in our economy is key to our nation's future jobs and growth which is why the government is vigorously implementing its National Innovation and Science Agenda," Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science Christopher Pyne said.

"Landing pads form part of our global innovation strategy, a key component of the Agenda, which will give Australian entrepreneurs an opportunity to compete globally.

"Our global innovation strategy will advance Australia's international collaboration performance and encourage Australians to leverage entrepreneurial expertise found in key locations overseas."

In addition to the landing pads, the global strategy includes AU$22 million seed funding to assist Australian collaborations with international research-industry clusters, such as the Fraunhofer Institute in Germany; and AU$3 million towards reducing barriers to regional collaboration and promoting what it called an open-market approach to industry research collaboration.

In another initiative announced under the Innovation Agenda, Pyne and Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Peter Dutton announced this week that the pair had begun the consultation process for the country's new Entrepreneur Visa.

"It is critical for Australia's prosperity and growth that we not only tap into the best entrepreneurial minds in Australia, but we also make it easier for talent from overseas to contribute to this country's innovative future," Pyne said.

"We are also keen to retain those educated and talented people who have come to Australia and developed their knowledge base during their time in this country."

According to the discussion paper, visa eligibility criteria will be determined based on consultation with key federal, state, and territory government as well as those from industry.

Consultation questions for the Entrepreneur visa include: Individual nomination procedure, third party backing, length of stay, visa extension length, and if the individual should be given permanent residency if their innovations prove to be a success.

The Department of Immigration had previously not responded to questions on what happens to people that reach the end of the proposed Entrepreneur visa length, or what defines success.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten previously announced his intention to create two new visa classes -- both capped at 2,000 international entrepreneurs -- to attract the "best global entrepreneurial talent" to help build Australia's growing startup ecosystem.

As part of his AU$2.5 billion pre-election promise for future jobs, Shorten said in December that his party believes Australia can be the startup, technology, and science capital of Asia by "supporting a new generation of innovators here, bringing great expats home and attracting the best minds from around the world".

Submissions for the Entrepreneur visa will be open until March 18, 2016, with the visa expected to be introduced by November this year.

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