The government’s announcement that it will establish up to 10 industry innovation precincts modelled in part on California’s Silicon Valley flies in the face of the belief of many people that Australia can never have a Silicon Valley.
The government says these precincts will boost collaboration between businesses and researchers to develop the skills, technologies and capabilities needed for business success.
The idea is to bring the best minds in Australia’s research institutions, like universities and the CSIRO, together with the best minds in business.
The precincts would be run by businesses, as the government is concerned that while Australia does a lot of great research it does not do well in commercialising that research.
Will this work?
SmartCompany deputy and technology editor Patrick Stafford argued in a blog post last week that Australian venture capitalists are far too conservative and Australia has a different mentality to innovative Americans.
“No matter how much money state governments throw at incubators or special tax breaks for tech firms, the tech industry will never have an Australian Silicon Valley. We don’t have the decades of history or passion for entrepreneurship,” he says.
Many SmartCompany readers agreed. However, government policy and funding has been successful in creating Silicon Valley-inspired precincts elsewhere than the US.
Just look at the so called “Silicon Roundabout” in the United Kingdom.
The British government noticed a number of technology companies and start-ups were clustering in East London nearby to the Old Street roundabout thanks to the cheap rents in the area.
So the government announced it would invest £50 million ($75 million) to regenerate the roundabout and create a new “civic” space to house start-ups and shared work spaces where students will learn to code.
The British government’s UK Trade and Investment funded the Tech City Investment Organisation to support companies exporting from or investing in the UK.
Its aim was to support the growth of the tech cluster in East London and to champion a 50% tax relief for angel investors, on investments of up to £100,000, leading website Mashable to ask whether London was the hottest tech scene since Silicon Valley.
Australian Venture Capital firms may not have the money of their American counterparts but at least the government’s new policy is a step in the right direction.
Forget Silicon Valley and Silicon Roundabout and bring on Silicon Oz.