Commonwealth spends AU$280k to bring startup incubator to Australia

Not-for-profit startup incubator MassChallenge is on its way to Australia thanks to a AU$280,000 incentive from the federal government.

Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science, Christopher Pyne, has announced the impending Australian arrival of MassChallenge, a non-profit startup accelerator from the United States.

For a cost of AU$280,000, the government said MassChallenge will help local startup entrepreneurs expand and grow their businesses in a bid to strengthen the nation's startup ecosystem through idea-pitching competitions, startup boot camps, and local and international mentoring.

MassChallenge takes no equity in the startups moving through its system, has graduated 835 alumni since 2010, raised $1.1 billion in funding, generated over $520 million in revenue, and created 6,500 jobs, Pyne said.

During a visit to the Microsoft Innovation Centre in Adelaide, Pyne said the products on display to him would not have been developed without the support of organisations like MassChallenge, with Microsoft Australia slated to be the founding partner of the startup accelerator.

"Accelerators are an important component of the ecosystem and boost the skills of participating startups through training, mentoring, and exposure to investor networks," Pyne said. "That is the kind of opportunity we want to create for startups here in Australia whilst also helping upskill the Australia innovation ecosystem."

Additionally, Pyne said the project brings with it a strong international connection with startup ecosystems from Boston, London, and Israel, which he expects will ensure a network of international connectivity and promotion of Australia as a global entrepreneurial hub.

Since the federal government unveiled its AU$1.1 billion National Innovation and Science Agenda in December last year, Pyne has focused on talking about innovation and giving startups a boost, sending entrepreneurial talent overseas to nurture their growth.

Last month, Pyne said that incubator support will contribute to the government's priorities under the innovation agenda by supporting incubators, accelerators, and related business support organisations that can foster the development and growth of high-potential startups.

"Incubators are a vital part of any effective innovation ecosystem, helping high-potential startups realise their economic potential and global ambitions," he said. "They provide startups with vital mentoring support and access to additional capital and networks to help them develop and commercialise their ideas."

Previously, the Australian government announced the first three locations for its AU$11 million startup landing pad initiative, aimed at accelerating Australia's access to international business networks, entrepreneurial talent, business development, and investors by creating a unique ecosystem for innovation to thrive.

Silicon Valley was revealed as the inaugural landing pad location, with the initiative taking up tenancy at RocketSpace technology campus in San Francisco; Tel Aviv was named as the second host city; and the third is pencilled in for Shanghai, with the remaining two expected to be positioned in Europe and in another capital city in Asia.

Also on Wednesday, the Queensland government awarded AU$10 million to 54 Queensland scientists in round one of the Advance Queensland Research Fellowships and PhD Scholarships programs to help drive innovation and attract highly skilled research leaders to the state.

According to Minister for Innovation, Science and the Digital Economy, Leeanne Enoch, the program will see researchers partner with industry or end-user organisations in Australia and overseas to develop what she called commercialisation opportunities to be delivered in Queensland.

"Research innovation can help our existing industries, such as agriculture, mining, aluminium refining, and smelting, to grow and prosper by developing improved processes and production techniques, as well as new industries which have outstanding potential for growth," Enoch said.

"It can also develop new industries with the potential to disrupt global supply chains to Queensland's advantage."

Under the PhD Scholarships program, graduate researchers are eligible for funding of up to AU$45,000 over three years; while the Research Fellowships program offers early-career fellowships of AU$180,000 over three years and mid-career fellowships of AU$300,000 over three years.