Turnbull unveils Innovation and Science Australia board

The federal government has announced its new Innovation and Science Australia statutory board which will be tasked with placing innovation and science at the centre of government policy making.
Written by Asha Barbaschow, Contributor

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has on Tuesday announced the remaining Innovation and Science Australia (ISA) board members that will oversee the nation's innovation agenda.

Joining Bill Ferris, who was appointed in November as the chair of the board, is Australia's Chief Scientist Dr Alan Finkel, who will take on the role of deputy chair.

Joining Ferris and Finkel on the board will be departing CEO of Google Australia & New Zealand and soon to be ANZ group executive digital banking Maile Carnegie, co-founder and CEO of Australian startup success story Atlassian Scott Farquhar, Daniel Petre from AirTree capital ventures, co-founder of SEEK and Square Peg Capital Paul Bassat, and Dr Chris Roberts from ResMed, along with Dr Michele Allan, Chancellor of Charles Sturt University, who has been reappointed.

According to Turnbull, the talent on the ISA board represents innovators and entrepreneurs with a proven record of success.

The government said the new board will have broader functions than its predecessor Innovation Australia, including advising the government on strategies, priorities, and investments.

"[The board] is going to be a very important element in our continuing project of ensuring that Australia -- innovative, competitive, productive -- is able to prosper in this exciting time in which we live, in this time of unprecedented global economic growth and change," Turnbull said. "We believe we have some of the best minds in Australia to advise us as we chart that journey."

The board will be tasked with placing innovation and science at the centre of government policy making, playing a key role in the delivery of its National Innovation and Science Agenda.

In December, the Australian government unveiled its AU$1.1 billion National Innovation and Science Agenda, which covered more than 20 measures centred on its "Ideas Boom" rhetoric.

Turnbull reiterated on Tuesday that the innovation agenda is absolutely critical for Australia's continued success following the mining boom.

"What comes next is innovation, open markets, investment, entrepreneurship, enterprise. Every level of our government is focused on a more innovative, enterprising Australia -- and a more innovative and enterprising government," he said.

"The National Innovation and Science Australia board is going to be critical in providing us with that advice. You will see that it has got a number of leading business men and women on it, and the reason for that is that it is vital that we work closely with industry, academia, business, and venture capital to ensure that we get the right inspiration and the right stimulation for investment."

The prime minister also said the government will be introducing legislation into Parliament on Wednesday that would provide tax incentives and capital gains tax (CGT) exemptions for investments in early stage startups.

"Investors will receive a 20 percent tax offset based on the amount that they invest in these early stage startups, as well as a CGT exemption," he said. "So what we're doing is encouraging people to invest and we're doing that by taking taxes off.

Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science Christopher Pyne said today was just another one of the stepping stones along the way for the implementation of the innovation agenda.

"We've already announced people who will be rolling out our programs for science, technology, engineering, and maths in preschools and the people who will be supporting digital literacy for teachers in the national curriculum -- they have already been announced and are already underway," Pyne said.

"Landing pads have been announced in Shanghai, Tel Aviv, and San Francisco and opened, or in the process of being opened, and two more will be soon announced."

Additionally, in the wake of the National Innovation and Science Agenda, Pyne said that various other measures have already kicked off.

He said the consultation process for creating a new visa for entrepreneurs has already begun, as has the process for implementing an Incubator Support Programme, with Pyne, alongside Assistant Minister for Innovation Wyatt Roy, publishing a discussion paper on Friday describing the draft program parameters.

After a new draft was released in late December, Pyne said the new crowdsourced equity funding laws [PDF] have already made their way through the House of Representatives and are waiting in the Senate for their passage.

"We aren't just talking about jobs and employment, we're actually getting on with the job of creating employment and growth in our economy and that's the difference between us and our Labor opponents who do much talking about things as though they are new things -- we're a long way down the track," he said.

"This team is helping the economy transition to a new place and certainly this is the team that can be trusted to do so whereas Labor will simply take us back."

Turnbull echoed much the same as his innovation minister, saying the Bill Shorten-led opposition is discouraging investment at every turn.

"Without introducing an unduly partisan note to this otherwise inspiring media event, let me just note that the Labor party are doing the exact opposite," Turnbull said.

"They're actually increasing the tax on capital gains, and of course if you want people to do less of something, you put more tax on it so they clearly want there to be less investment -- we want there to be more. Particularly more innovative investment and that's what our whole innovation agenda is all about."

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