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Pollenizer partners with Commonwealth for DataStart initiative

Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet has launched a public-private partnership in an initiative it hopes will support data-driven innovation in the country.

Sydney-based startup incubator, Pollenizer, has partnered with the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet to deliver an open data initiative, DataStart.

Sponsored by Google and Optus, DataStart will see participants leverage over 7,500 open data sets via data.gov.au, vying for the top prize of seeing their concept incubated through to delivery, as part of the nine-month Pollenizer Success Core Program.

"By sponsoring an incubation program it allows founders runway to find a globally scaleable and valuable business model, and not just initiate projects and just hope they scale," Daniel Ringrose, partner at Pollenizer said.

"Government now understands that a fast failure should create learning insights, and new ideas can pivot."

Ringrose said open data will be a powerful tool for DataStart participants, not just a prescription. He said participants are being given freedom and support to creatively mash-up information and discover new value that has not been thought of before.

"Founders can pursue their big vision without restrictions to comply with mandated themes or outcomes," he said. "It's founders, not the data, that will make this program succeed."

He said the government is now backing founders to pursue concepts in industries they are passionate about.

"Prior initiatives were focused on solving government challenges that may have failed internally even with big budgets," he said.

"Startups innovate to disrupt industries by discovering new business models; previously concepts had to meet pre-determined government societal objectives to get support."

Since his appointment in September, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has constantly reaffirmed his stance on the importance of investing in science; promoting education in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM); and supporting startups in Australia.

"If we want to remain a prosperous, first-world economy with a generous social welfare safety net, we must be more competitive, we must be more productive. Above all, we must be more innovative," Turnbull said previously.

"We have to work more agilely, more innovatively, we have to be more nimble in the way we seize the enormous opportunities that are presented to us. We're not seeking to proof ourselves against the future. We are seeking to embrace it."

The DataStart process will see shortlisted applicants pitch their ideas to a panel of judges from government, industry, and investment organisations, with their ideas judged on criteria such as the level of innovation and commercial viability.

The winner will be announced on January 18, 2016 and will receive team coaching and mentoring once a week from the Pollenizer program, as well as training in Pollenizer's "startup science" methodology, and an office in Sydney's CBD.

In addition, Pollenizer Investments has also partnered with Right Click Capital to offer a AU$200,000 seed capital investment. If both firms mutually agree to invest in the idea, the successful startup will be able to access the funds to grow their business and draw a salary during the incubation period.

"DataStart is an opportunity for startups, incubators, big corporate, and government to work together to deliver cost effective and innovative digital services," the Prime Minister's department said.

According to a report [PDF] from PriceWaterhouse Coopers (PwC), it is estimated the Australian tech startup sector has the potential to contribute over AU$100 billion, or 4 percent of the country's gross domestic product by 2033; PwC has also been charged with the role of strategic advisor for DataStart.

Data61, the result of the merger of the digital productivity arm of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and National ICT Australia (NICTA), will also provide DataStart and its participants with support to get their ideas off the ground.

Last week, the CSIRO began work on its ON program, an initiative part of its 2020 Strategy aimed at connecting the CSIRO with the entrepreneurial community in Australia.

"The ON program will be key to delivering more breakthrough innovation from CSIRO," Liza Noonan, executive manager innovation and ON program lead said. "One of the first initiatives of ON is a new accelerator for CSIRO concepts with high impact potential."

According to the CSIRO, the accelerator program was born out of the idea that Australia has more than enough talent; it just requires the right environment and support.

"This program is different from other accelerators out there," Noonan said at the time.

"These are deep tech projects that cross a wide range of industries, from manufacturing to agriculture. Our end goal is to get technology out to market that will address major challenges we face as a nation."