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New strategy guides WA’s innovation agenda

by Poppy Johnston •
Free resource

Topics: ICT Strategy; WA.

$20 million in state funding will go towards building an “innovation ecosystem” in Western Australia – with an innovation portal, a new IP policy, and a co-funding program among the key initiatives to receive funding in the recently released Innovation Strategy.

Under significant pressure to broaden the economy due to the current period of below-trend Gross State Product growth and local economic contraction following the end of the resources boom, the Western Australian Government announced a $20 million innovation fund as part of the 2016-17 Budget to help fast-track economic diversification.

The newly released Innovation Strategy maps out how this innovation-related spending will be distributed, and identifies priority areas over the next four years.

Allocated $5.5 million in total over four years, the WA Start Up Program (WASUP) will receive the largest share of the funding. The WASUP co-funding program will attempt to attract angel investors who will pitch in with government to help get new business ventures off the ground.

The second largest initiative is the university innovation commercialisation fund – $1 million to help universities “spin out commercial entities based on their own entrepreneurial activities”.

A significant element of the strategy’s implementation will be the state’s Innovation Portal. Although not scheduled for completion until 2019 in the 2016-2020 ICT Strategy Digital WA, the Innovation Strategy states that its development is now sufficiently advanced that its initial launch date is imminent. The Innovation Portal will function as a directory to help innovators find opportunities to collaborate and establish space-sharing arrangements.

Other significant measures include:

  • $500,000 over four years towards unsolicited bids for ideas that will help solve high-priority government problems;
  • an IP policy that makes it easier to commercialise government IP (at a cost yet to be determined);
  • various competitions and education programs, including $500,000 to teach entrepreneurship (competitions and awards are intended to help the state attract and retain entrepreneurial talent); and
  • $400,000 towards “innovation vouchers” over the four years.

Recognising that there are many players in the creation of a genuine innovation ecosystem, the strategy states that the government’s role “should be to drive but not interfere”.

“Government has a role to play, including uniting Western Australia in vision, accelerating the ecosystem, optimising policy to stimulate entrepreneurship, increasing international visibility and as an exemplar.”

The strategy was formulated in collaboration with state industry leaders following the Western Australian Innovation Summit in June 2016.

Innovation strategies are also being developed in South Australia and New South Wales, with the latter’s innovation strategy slated to replace its existing Whole-of-Government ICT Strategy, Digital + 2016, on publication.

Plans for the South Australian innovation strategy arose following recommendations in a report by the Redfire Consulting Group, which found a disjointed approach to innovation policy across the government. The report recommended that responsibility for the new innovation policy should remain with a single minister, and within a ministry solely responsible for Science and the Information Economy. 

Fostering innovation – under the Advanced Queensland branding – was a significant theme of the 2016-17 Queensland Budget. Aimed at “harnessing innovation to strengthen and diversify the economy and create jobs”, the Advanced Queensland program is a critical component of the government’s economic plan and received a bolstered total of $405 million over five years.

As of the most recent program update, the government had added 13 new initiatives to Advanced Queensland, including the Platform Technology Program – a $10 million initiative to develop capabilities in areas such as “drones, big data and the Internet of things” for use by Queensland businesses. 

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