​Queensland banks on AU$8m program to lure international talent

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has launched a startup relocation program in a bid to draw entrepreneurial talent and new jobs to the state.
Written by Asha Barbaschow, Contributor

The Queensland government has launched Hot DesQ, an AU$8 million startup relocation program that aims to bring talent into the state for a six-month term.

Opening the Advance Queensland Innovation and Investment Summit in Brisbane on Thursday, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the funds will be dispersed in grants of up to AU$100,000, with Hot DesQ participants immersed into existing startup communities in Townsville, Gold Coast, Ipswich, Sunshine Coast, Brisbane, Cairns, or Toowoomba, and given co-working space free of charge.

Although Queensland-based startups are not eligible for the program, Palaszczuk said she expects Hot DesQ to benefit startups in the state by providing international connections and access to global startup communities, investors, and international markets.

"We want to lure successful international and interstate startups to Queensland, strengthening our own growing startup ecosystem," she said. "We can be an entrepreneurial hotspot -- the Startup State -- and Hot DesQ is central to making that a reality."

Palaszczuk has shortlisted 13 potential hosts for the incoming startups, chosen from an expression of interest process earlier this year.

Minister for Innovation, Science and the Digital Economy Leeanne Enoch said Hot DesQ would be promoted both nationally and internationally, playing on the state's proximity to the Asia-Pacific region, which she said gives Queensland a competitive advantage.

"We want to capitalise on global expertise and connections, and the program is designed to ensure that startups across Queensland are at the core of this program," Enoch said.

The startup relocation program has been modelled on international programs such as Startup Chile, which has been running since 2010, and the French Tech Ticket, launched in 2015.

The AU$8 million Hot DesQ program forms part of the state's AU$24 million startup initiative, which Palaszczuk unveiled at a launch breakfast for the state government's AU$180 million Advance Queensland scheme, on the eve of the state's 2015-2016 budget.

"As a government, we know that the real driver of economic change are entrepreneurs and ambitious businesses," she said at the time.

"Every big corporate starts as an emerging business that took a chance. Startups can reshape entire industries through technology and business model innovation. They are vital to job creation and prosperity -- in fact studies have found that each technology job created leads to five additional jobs in other sectors."

Also on Thursday, Palaszczuk announced a AU$4 million startup hub, slated for Brisbane's Fortitude Valley.

"The precinct will be home to some of our best and brightest startup talent -- a space where they will gather, incubate their ideas, and learn from each other," she said.

Local startup group RiverCity Labs will be among the precinct's first tenants and CSIRO's Data61 has also committed as foundation partner.

Data61 director of business development and commercialisation Peter Leihn said the precinct will offer direct access to entrepreneurs and startups to cross-fertilise ideas, share information, and help drive disruptive technologies.

"It is our intention to be a central participant, working with government, the startup community, and our university partners, to support the Queensland innovation ecosystem," Leihn said.

Palaszczuk said the investment community is also supportive of the initiative, with early-stage investment group the Brisbane Angels already wanting to establish strong connections with the precinct.

Earlier this month, 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.

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.

Palaszczuk also signed an agreement this month with the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology, the government agency responsible for steering China's science and technology development.

Under the agreement, Queensland entrepreneurs and researchers will take part in placements within China's science and technology incubators, at a rate of eight per year, for the next three years.

"We know innovation can lead to big economic growth," Palaszczuk said. "Through mentoring, local business links, access to world-class facilities, and some of China's leading business and science experts, incubators are the perfect environment to prototype, test, attract investment, and commercialise innovative ideas."

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