Labor says it will redirect $360,000 in government funding for peak industry body StartupAUS into regional innovation development if it wins the upcoming July election.
The government recently announced it would be providing up to $360,000 in funding to the lobby group to produce up to six research reports on different issues in the sector, a move that was heavily criticised for potentially jeopardising the group’s independence.
Shadow spokesperson for startups Ed Husic has announced that Labor would still provide this funding to StartupAUS but it would be used to “map out the strongest possible pathways for increasing the role of regional Australia in the nation’s innovation effort”.
Labor announced last year that it would create a $16 million Regional Innovation Fund to build up to 20 new regional innovation hubs, provide seed funding to startups and build local expertise.
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Husic says the repurposed funding for StartupAUS would go towards “devising a strategy to boost the emergence of regionally-based innovation communities” and helping to direct Labor’s funding for regional innovation.
“With two-thirds of new early-stage innovation firms emerging from Sydney, a greater focus needs to be placed on plans to involve the entire country in our nation’s innovation push,” Husic says.
“Federal Labor has taken the view that this grant needs sharper focus on work that will have a meaningful impact: mapping out ways for regional Australia to generate new firms and jobs beyond a few metropolitan cities.”
Husic has previously claimed that government funding of StartupAUS would compromise the group’s independence.
StartupAUS CEO Alex McCauley says he’s open to working with either side of politics, although the group will still decide what it researches.
“As always, our board of directors ultimately drives the research priorities of StartupAUS,” McCauley says.
“We look forward to working with whichever party forms the next government to agree on areas of importance to the national startup ecosystem, and to helping deliver insights into those areas.”
The government has already commissioned two StartupAUS reports on culture and entrepreneurship and an international analysis of entrepreneurial programs, with the first expected to be delivered by October.
Despite these reports now being in jeopardy, McCauley says it’s positive that both major parties are focusing on startups and innovation.
“We’re excited to be in a position where both sides of politics are passionate about commissioning credible, independent research into how to take this vital area of economic policy forward,” he says.
“StartupAUS will continue to work with both sides of politics to inform and advocate for the strongest possible startup policy outcomes.”