Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has pledged a further $15 million to help grow Australian startups as part of an expansion of the government’s incubator support program.
The funding adds to the $8 million allocated to the program in last year’s $1.1 billion innovation statement which was quickly criticised for not being enough to make a real impact.
Making the announcement at Brisbane startup hub River City Labs, Turnbull said the funding will be used to increase the number of incubators and accelerators, support existing programs, attract experts-in-residence to the country and give access to up to $500,000 in funding to these organisations.
The incubator support program offers matched funding to Australian incubators and will be taking applications from July 1.
In a statement, Turnbull said that these programs play an important role in growing the country’s entrepreneurs but aren’t currently at an international standard.
“Australia’s existing network of incubators and accelerators is falling well short of meeting the current level of demand,” Turnbull said.
StartupAUS CEO Alex McCauley says the funding is a “good start” and will “genuinely help” Australian startups.
“Funding for incubators and accelerators is important and many of our most promising entrepreneurs are going through these programs,” McCauley says.
“[They] provide valuable support structures to help founders skill up and succeed.”
But McCauley says this area was “substantially underfunded” in the innovation statement, and still hasn’t been extended far enough.
“If we really want to boost the quality and output of our entrepreneurs we can’t ignore co-working,” he says.
“Most startups are in co-working spaces and don’t have access to the facilities on offer in incubators or accelerators. StartupAUS would like to see the program expanded to help co-working spaces fund accelerator-style opportunities to help their resident companies grow quickly.”
McCauley says he also wants to see funding go towards helping these programs measure how successful the participating startups have been.
“That’s how we’re going to know if we’re moving the needle here,” he says.
The opposition revealed its plans for the nation’s incubators and accelerators late last year, focusing on the importance of these facilities in regional areas and in encouraging university students to launch a startup.
The plan included the establishment of a $16 million Regional Innovation Fund to invest in incubators and accelerators operating outside of the capital cities.
McCauley says the election campaign has been disappointing for startups so far, and he hopes for more policy announcements soon.
“Both sides of politics recognise that innovation is a priority area for Australia’s future prosperity, but the election campaign has been notable for its absence of policy in this space,” he says.
“We’ve been told for some time that the series of policies announced by both sides last year were just the beginning so we’d like to see both sides do more in this election campaign.
“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.”