The opposition has accused the government of “innovation by imitation” after Malcolm Turnbull announced a further $15 million in funding for Australian incubators and accelerators on Tuesday.
The funding is on top of $8 million committed in last year’s $1 billion innovation statement, but shadow parliamentary secretary assisting with startups Ed Husic says this is a “screenshot” of a policy Labor announced last year.
“The Turnbull government finally recognised the importance of investing in regional innovation and did so by mirroring longstanding Labor policy to help regional startups,” Husic says.
“Today’s catch-up by the Liberals shows how out of touch they are by failing to genuinely commit early on to include regional Australia in the national innovation effort.”
Labor committed $16 million in funding to establish up to 20 new incubators and accelerators in regional areas across three years at the end of 2015.
While Labor’s incubator support program targets regional Australia specifically, Turnbull says the government’s own funding is aimed at increasing the number of accelerators, supporting existing programs, attracting experts-in-residence and offering up to $500,000 in matched funding across all of the Australia.
Husic points to the gap in funding between what is being pledged towards incubators and the government’s $28 million “ideas boom” advertising campaign.
“This mismatch was a slap in the face to regional Australia,” he says.
“He forgot to put a zero at the end”
Members of the Australian startup community have also criticised both sides of politics for not going far enough with funding in this area, with PoweredLocal co-founder Michael Jankie saying Turnbull’s added funding “won’t go very far”.
“It will provide a little assistance to a few selected ideas,” Jankie says.
“It looks like [Turnbull] forgot a zero or two from the end of that number and should be suggesting this is an annual amount.
“Perhaps he should take some learnings from his career and do what the angels are doing and put similar amounts of up to $500,000 into a far broader spread of companies and ideas and not just ones already being preyed on by VCs and incubators.”
Brosa co-founder Ivan Lim says the government should also be contributing more than just funding to these organisations and could be offering up APIs and datasets from its public agencies.
“While I applaud the additional funding that the government announced today, they need to provide more than just money,” Lim says.
“If both political parties want to truly support innovation there are additional ways than just more money.”
Turnbull’s funding pledge marked one of the first significant innovation policy announcements of the campaign, and StartupAUS CEO Alex McCauley says both parties need to lift their game.
“The election campaign has been notable for its absence of policy in this space,” McCauley says.
“If we want to build a thriving tech startup sector in Australia we’ll need more of these sorts of practical policy commitments as well as some ambitious, big picture thinking.”