Startup advocacy group, StartupAUS, said the Turnbull government’s $15 million pledge to boost the sector is far from sufficient.
The government’s funding injection – part of its $1.1 billion innovation agenda – will expand the Incubator Support Program, which has already received $8 million. The new funding will increase the number of startup incubators, support expansion of existing incubators, and enable them to access $500,000 in funding.
StartupAUS CEO, Alex McCauley, said $15 million, although a good start, is a modest amount and the group would like to see more funding available to help incubators, accelerators and coworking spaces measure the performance of their member companies.
“That’s how we’re going to know if we are moving the needle here,” he said. “If we really want to boost the quality and output of our entrepreneurs, we can’t ignore coworking. Most startups are in coworking 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 coworking spaces fund accelerator-style opportunities to help their resident companies grow quickly,” he said.
McCauley said that although both sides of politics recognise that innovation is a priority area for Australia’s future prosperity the election campaign has been notable for its lack of policy in this space.
“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,” he said.
Meanwhile, Ed Husic, shadow parliamentary secretary assisting with digital innovation and startups, said although the Turnbull government recognised the importance of investing in regional innovation, its "ideas boom" has led it to screenshot Labor's policy approach.
Husic said today's announcement of support for regionally-based accelerators, a pool of funds for regions to tap into to support local startups, and providing access to specialised advice to guide regional startups were all advocated by Labor last year.
"In their much-advertised National Innovation and Science Agenda, the Liberals only committed $8 million to promote the establishment of regional innovation accelerators," Husic said.
"However, they have wasted nearly $30 million on an expensive “ideas boom” advertising campaign to help promote the Turnbull government."
"This mismatch in spending was a slap in the face to regional Australia – areas that could have reasonably expected greater support in their efforts to diversify the local economy in the aftermath of the mining boom.
"Today’s announcement is a terrific example of the Turnbull Government’s innovation through imitation," he said.
"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.
Last year, Labor announced it would invest $16 million towards establishing up to 20 accelerators over three years, which would be self-sustaining innovation hubs within universities and TAFEs that are integrated with local businesses.
Follow Byron Connolly on Twitter: @ByronConnolly