​Turnbull promises additional AU$15m for Australian startups

If re-elected as prime minister next month, Malcolm Turnbull said he will give the country's startup Incubator Support program a AU$15 million boost, adding to the AU$8 million already allocated to the cause.
Written by Asha Barbaschow, Contributor

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has promised an additional AU$15 million to support Australian startups if he is re-elected in next month's federal election.

The funding has been 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.

"Innovation is critical to Australia's economic transition and forms an important part of our national economic plan," Turnbull said again on Wednesday. "Startups are among the most innovative businesses and are an important source of job creation and growth."

According to the prime minister, the new investment will increase the number of startup incubators and accelerators in Australia; support the expansion of existing high-performing incubators and accelerators; attract "experts in residence" to provide specialist advice to startup businesses; and enable new and existing incubators and accelerators to access up to AU$500,000 in funding.

"Australia's existing network of incubators and accelerators is falling well short of meeting the current level of demand," Turnbull said. "Incubators and accelerators assist startups with new business networks and expert advice, helping them access new sources of funding and bring innovative ideas to market sooner."

Alex McCauley, CEO of StartupAUS, has called Turnbull's pledge modest, saying the funding is 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.

"This is a relatively modest announcement, but it's a good start. If we really want to boost the quality and output of our entrepreneurs we can't ignore co-working. Most startups are in co-working spaces and don't have access to the facilities on offer in incubators or accelerators -- StartupAUS would like to see the program expanded to help co-working spaces fund accelerator-style opportunities to help their resident companies grow quickly," he said.

"StartupAUS would also like to see more funding made available to help incubators, accelerators, and co-working spaces measure the performance of their member companies.

"That's how we're going to know if we're moving the needle here."

Previously, Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science Christopher Pyne said Incubator Support will contribute to the government's priorities by supporting incubators, accelerators, and related business support organisations that can foster the development and growth of high-potential startups.

Pyne, alongside Assistant Minister for Innovation Wyatt Roy, published an Incubator Support Discussion Paper in March, describing the draft program parameters.

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

Since the innovation agenda was unveiled, the federal government has also kicked off its AU$11 million startup landing pad initiative aimed at helping Australian entrepreneurs bring their ideas to market.

The inaugural landing pad was unveiled in February, with the government selecting Silicon Valley's RocketSpace technology campus to kick off the initiative.

Tel Aviv was then announced as the second host city for the government-funded project; Shanghai was unveiled as the desired location for the third landing pad, Berlin was revealed as the fourth location, and Singapore was confirmed as the fifth and final landing pad spot last month.

When announcing the AU$11 million landing pad initiative, Turnbull said the billion-dollar promise would be used to incentivise innovation and entrepreneurship, reward risk taking, and promote science, maths, and computing in schools.

"Australia is falling behind on measures of commercialisation and collaboration, consistently ranking last or second last among OECD countries for business-research collaboration," he said. "Our appetite for risk is lower than in comparable countries, which means Australian startups and early stage businesses often fail to attract capital to grow."

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