SA Budget 2021: What’s in it for startups and SMEs?

Steven Marshall

South Australian Premier Steven Marshall.

The 2021 South Australian budget, unveiled this week, shows the state is facing a record $1.78 billion deficit, as Treasurer Rob Lucas laid out expensive plans for post-pandemic recovery.

In his speech, Lucas said in the six months since the last budget was handed down, the state has seen “significant economic recovery as thousands of businesses reopen their doors”.

However, he added that “there is still more work to be done”, saying the high-cost budget lays out a new approach to economic growth.

So, what’s in the South Australian budget for small businesses and startups?

Payroll tax exemption for apprentices

The state government is investing $4 million over two years to extend payroll tax exemptions for eligible apprentices and trainees.

The exemptions apply to any worker commencing a new contract for a relevant training scheme before June 30 next year, and continue for 12 months from the apprentice or trainee’s start date.

This measure is intended to complement previously announced apprentice wage subsidy schemes from both the state and federal governments.

It’s intended to help meet the workforce demand created by a $16.7 billion spend on infrastructure, which South Australian Premier Steven Marshall said is “driving a wave of job creation”.

“Companies need an appropriately qualified workforce to take full advantage of the opportunities on offer,” the Premier said in a statement.

Small business capability program

Over four years, $2.6 million will be invested into South Australia’s Small Business Capability Program.

The funding is intended to support small business owners in developing new skills and capabilities, including in digital and cybersecurity, to help them enter the national trade market and boost interstate exports.

This also includes $350,000 to be spent over the next year to improve the digital resources available to small business owners.

Great state tourism vouchers

Over the next 12 months the state government will pour another $4 million into additional rounds of its Great State tourism voucher scheme, intended to encourage travel within the state, including to Adelaide.

This is being funded through reallocation of the South Australian Tourism Commission’s resources.

Lot Fourteen upgrade

The state government has also committed $20.8 million over the next 12 months to upgrade the Lot Fourteen innovation hub, to allow for the expansion of space startups, as well as other digital, cyber and tech-enabled businesses “in a collaborative setting” Stevens said.

Space sector boost

The South Australian budget commits $860,000 over three years to the extension of the Defence and Space Landing Pad program, which offers subsidised office accommodation and access to expert support for businesses bringing space and defence capabilities to the state.

The space sector will also get a $6.6 million boost over five years for the local manufacturing of a satellite to improve ‘space-derived services’ in South Australia, set to be launched in mid-2022.

There will also be an additional $2.5 million invested over four years into the Defence Innovation Partnership, including an ‘activator’ fund to support large-scale R&D in the defence and space sectors.

Wine export support

South Australia’s wine industry will receive $5.4 million over four years to support growth in exports, and the diversification of priority markets.

Paris trade hub

Some $1.8 million is set to be invested over four years to establish a European-focused trade hub in Paris, in a bid to improve international trade and investment opportunities.

Focus on growing industries

The South Australian government has also given a nod to some growing, tech-enabled industries.

It is pledging $1.5 million over two years to build a commercial seaweed industry. This will fund large-scale testing and trials, and development of a ‘hatchery capability’ of the Asparagopsis seaweed, which can be used in cattle feed to reduce the animals’ methane emissions.

The government will also spend $2 million over the next 12 months to establish the Waite Plant-Based Food Incubator Laboratory, focused on research and development of plant-based ingredients.

And $1.6 million will be spent over four years to develop an artificial intelligence and health tech hub. This includes $985,000 in grants available to startups working on AI solutions related to health, and $589,000 for ‘project support activities’.

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