New StartupAUS CEO Alex McCauley says he wants to make startups part of the broader national conversation.
McCauley, a former diplomat, took over as CEO of the peak representative body on Wednesday from interim head Peter Bradd.
He says his main goals are to empower the startup sector with effective innovation policies and to drive a cultural change that would see Australians embrace its promise for the innovation economy.
“It’s critical that Australians understand that startups and innovation policy are not separate from broader economic policy,” McCauley tells StartupSmart.
To do this, McCauley says governments need to work with startup communities, corporates and research bodies to build a unique system that leverages natural strengths and talent across the country.
“Governments can make a difference in this space,” he says.
In places like Israel and Silicon Valley, McCauley says governments have been excellent players in cultivating strong ecosystems.
“It’s about creating the right policy setting to allow startups and innovation to flourish,” he says.
StartupAUS will focus on three key policy pillars, which they plan to feed into the election campaign.
“Increase the availability of talent for startups, make sure startups have access to capital and changing national culture to be more open to innovation and entrepreneurship,” he says.
Following a three-year stint in Israel as an Australian diplomat, McCauley says connectivity is the biggest thing Australia’s startup scene lacks in comparison to major ecosystems around the world.
Building the connection between corporates, governments, universities and startups will be one of his key focuses in leading StartupAus, he says.
“A lot of great research and ideas don’t get commercialised,” McCauley says.
To build this collaborative approach between industries, groups and entrepreneurs, McCauley says the group has already commenced partnership talks with various universities.
“There’s an appetite in the academic community for more involvement in commercial activity,” he says.
Instead of research being judged by the number of citations received, McCauley says it should be valued by commercial impact.
This will take a cultural shift, McCauley says.
He says this needs to be driven through acknowledgement of the impact of startups and innovation on Australia’s economy including changes to employment and demand for new skills and training.
“It’s a message for everybody,” McCauley says.
He says Australia is on the brink of an exciting period due to an increasing consensus on the importance for economic innovation.
“It’s a once in a generation opportunity where everyone in politics is on the same page,” he says.
As a leading representative of the startup industry, McCauley wants to present a credible centralised voice to government so they can be confident they’re acting in the best interests of the sector.
“We’re developing innovation policies to take Australia to the next level to join the ranks of top startup ecosystems around the world,” he says.
To ensure Australia’s startup sector is empowered with the right policy frameworks and supports, McCauley says one of his biggest goals is to increase the “plurality of conversations” that they take to government from startups, investors, universities and other key players in the field.
In line with this he wants government to “rethink” research and development incentives by doubling funding for early-stage startups to encourage the building and testing of new ideas.
“It’s about making sure we capture the vast opportunities that tech innovations are going to deliver, the new skills it will lead to and the jobs it will create,” McCauley says.