​Startups out-promised by sports fields in Turnbull campaign

In the weeks leading up to next month's federal election, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has been talking the startup talk, but has come under criticism for not walking the startup walk.
Written by Asha Barbaschow, Contributor

Startups are apparently the centre of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's economic plan, but sporting facilities in at-risk electorates are getting a better deal from the coalition's election promises.

So far, during the election campaign, Turnbull has promised AU$15.4 million for Australian startups, announcing last week the funding will be allocated to expand the existing Incubator Support program, which was given AU$8 million in December as part of the government's AU$1.1 billion National Innovation and Science Agenda.

Sporting facilities are slated to receive AU$18.5 million and at the higher end of spending pledges, AU$150 million has been set aside to get the ball rolling on Queensland dams.

In the six months since announcing his innovation package, Turnbull has been called out for leaving the startup industry underfunded.

Alex McCauley, CEO of industry group StartupAUS -- which is a AU$350,000 beneficiary of coalition promises -- said the contribution is modest, but a good start.

"We've been told for some time that the series of policies announced by both sides last year was just the beginning, so we'd like to see both sides do more in this election campaign," McCauley said in a statement.

Last week, the CEO of Australia's peak startup body said the funding was far from sufficient and that there are three to four core areas both parties must look at addressing to help boot startups in the country, including helping entrepreneurs with co-working spaces and fund accelerator-style opportunities to help their companies grow quickly.

Adam Mostogl, who was named 2015 Tasmanian of the Year for his work on regional innovation and who has provided entrepreneurial workshops to 1,600 young Tasmanians, agrees the rhetoric has been stronger than funding commitments.

"There is still some work to go there," he said.

Mostogl said he is also concerned innovation money is going into one basket.

"More could be done to help those in regional areas and in the agriculture and tourism sectors so they could jump the first hurdles to make ideas a reality," he said. "People have ideas. We need to support them better ... and feel confident going down that pathway is as valid as any other career."

Addressing the Young Engineers Australia & Women in STEM event in Melbourne on Monday, Turnbull said the future of Australia was dependent on innovators and people with the capacity to solve "the problems of tomorrow".

"Engineers have the quantitative skills that are viable to every area of our national endeavour," he said. "Engineers are forging the way to make us competitive."

According to the prime minister, Australia is good at primary research, but not so good on the collaboration side of innovation.

"We recognise that in innovation lies our future. We simply cannot remain a high wage generous social welfare net first world economy unless we are more innovative, unless we are more competitive, and more productive," he said.

To combat this, Turnbull said his focus is on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and putting resources behind STEM in schools, as well as encouraging "more girls" to study STEM subjects in schools.

He also said his party is putting so much thought, policy, and considerable money and resources behind innovation to ensure there is greater collaboration between research and industry.

When visiting McCarthy Catholic College in Emu Plains last week, part of the swing seat of Lindsay in Western Sydney, Turnbull announced that an extra 12 schools around the country will get to trial the program known as Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH), giving the initiative a AU$4.6 million injection.

The program, originally announced by former Prime Minister Tony Abbott in 2014, is designed to deliver better results in STEM subjects and give students skills that employers want.

With AAP

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