New South Wales minister for innovation Victor Dominello has called for maturity and an end to “schoolyard games” in the national innovation debate following a war of words on Twitter with his Victorian counterpart.
The debate began with a series of tweets from Victorian minister for innovation and trade Philip Dalidakis to mark Dominello’s visit to Melbourne, where he was touring a series of co-working spaces.
— Philip Dalidakis MP (@philipdalidakis) January 12, 2016
“We don’t mind NSW copying [the Victorian government’s] startup strategy. Just don’t expect us to slow down for you to catch up,” Dalidakis tweeted.
Moving beyond the traditional rivalry
But speaking to StartupSmart, Dominello says the innovation and startup sector needs to move beyond traditional city rivalries.
“I think maturity needs to take control here,” Dominello says.
“Competition is so 20th century – in the innovation space particularly collaboration is key.
“If [Dalidakis] wants to play those schoolyard games across the border that’s fine, but first and foremost we’re Australian.
“Where we can collaborate between states is a win-win. That type of leadership is what we need in the innovation space.”
Making no apologies
But Dalidakis is making no apologies for the tweets, telling StartupSmart that he’s just doing his job.
“As the Victorian minister for innovation I proudly and unashamedly work night and day so that our startup ecosystem receives the support and nurturing it needs to prosper,” Dalidakis says.
“I make no apologies for our relentless focus on being the most innovative state in Australia as we aim to be the number one tech and startup destination across the Asia-Pacific region.”
Dominello says it’s possible for both states to work together to achieve the best individual and national outcomes.
“I’ll always fight for NSW, but fighting doesn’t necessarily mean you have to defeat your opponent,” Dominello says.
“Fighting for NSW means getting the best outcome and sometimes the best outcome means to collaborate and we see that constantly in the innovation space.
“This discussion requires a level of maturity that extends way beyond state boundaries.”
Sharing innovation ideas across the border
Last year saw the Victorian government make a series of coups in the startup space, mainly focused on enticing large global players to establish regional headquarters in the city.
These included GoPro, Zendesk and Slack, who each received government funding to open an office in the city and create well over 300 tech jobs.
The Victorian government also launched its $60 million innovation fund as an independent representative body in November last year.
Dominello says he isn’t concerned these companies opted to settle in Melbourne and that it’s important for states to share ideas.
“I’m more than happy for Victoria to do their very best for Victorians, and New South Wales will do the very best for New South Welshmen and women, but ultimately we’re all Australian,” he says.
“Competition is great and healthy but collaboration is more important. If Victoria succeeds that’s great, if we can pick up ideas from them that’s great and if they can pick up ideas from us that’s great too.
“One of the most endearing features of innovation is the competitive tension between states, but in the mature era that we’re in we’ve got to look at how we can use collaboration to get win-win situations rather than win-lose situations.”
Dalidakis says he would welcome a meeting with his cross-border counterpart.
“We have some of the best talent in the world right here in Victoria,” he says.
“I can understand why the NSW Minister would want to conduct a fact-finding mission but if he is truly genuine about collaboration, he can start by picking up the phone and calling ahead of time.”
In the series of tweets, Dalidakis also cheekily referenced the poaching of Australia’s largest startup conference SydStart, which will be renamed to StartCon and held in Melbourne this year, even offering Dominello a free ticket to the event.