Labor pitches 'startup year' as key to Australia's future

The 'startup year', Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese declared, is a program aimed at driving innovation and increasing links between universities and entrepreneurs.

anthony-albanese.jpg

Image: Getty Images

Opposition leader Anthony Albanese has outlined his plan for Australia should Labor be successful at the next federal election, one that's centred on things the Coalition missed in its 2021-22 Budget.

"We have a once in a century opportunity to reinvent our economy, to lift wages and make sure they keep rising, to invest in advanced manufacturing and in skills and training with public TAFE at its heart, to provide affordable childcare, to fix aged care, to address the housing crisis, to champion equality for women, and to emerge as a renewable energy superpower," he declared in his Budget reply speech, delivered Thursday night.

"That's the better future I want to build for Australia as Prime Minister."

A centrepiece of Albanese's plan is a "startup year".

"Australia has always produced scientific innovations, but we always haven't been good at commercialising them," he continued, listing the black box, Google Maps, the Cochlear implant as some examples.

He said a lot of what Australia uncovers via research gets converted into manufacturing jobs overseas.
 
"And if we don't get smart, if we don't get serious, if we don't get moving -- the same thing is going to happen again," he said.

The startup year, Albanese declared, is a program to "help drive innovation and increase links between universities and entrepreneurs".

The program will allow final year university students, or recent graduates, to learn from experts about how to transform their ideas and research into products and services that Australia can sell to the world.
 
The students would do their training at established "accelerators" or "incubators".

Startup loans will be offered to students and new graduates with ventures attached to the tertiary institution or designated private accelerator. Albanese believes this will assist in the identification of opportunities for commercialisation of university research.

Startup year will train up to 2,000 students per year and will be supported by HELP/HECS loans, up to a maximum of AU$11,300.

The loans can go towards paying for things such as training, equipment, or building prototypes.

Expanding further on this plan, Shadow Minister for Industry and Innovation Ed Husic said Labor wants to send a signal to young Australians that it "backs them and their ideas to build new firms and new jobs".

"We want to do that through the range of university accelerators that exist across the country. We want to work with the university sector and others in the innovation space to determine how we do that selection process. And the big thing for us is to build that momentum, build that interest in starting new firms. Because really, what we need to see in this country apart from current firms getting bigger and stronger, we need to see an influx of new firms coming in with new ideas to improve the way the economy works," he said.

This requires, however, talented people on the ground to do the work that will support startups and encourage their growth, Husic declared.

"If you've had a federal government that continually cuts or fails to support the university sector can't get its act together on commercialising the research and ideas coming out of universities is cutting TAFE and is dragging the chain on innovation, this is a real problem," he continued.

On Tuesday night, the government unveiled a "patent box" to drive research in medical and biotech technologies, and a National Centre of AI Excellence. Husic said the first was taken from similar overseas initiatives and the second was stolen from his party.