WILL THE BUDGET 'STARTUP' BRISBANE?

WILL THE BUDGET 'STARTUP' BRISBANE?

ONLY 7 per cent of Australia's startups are in Brisbane. A $24 million package in the Budget promises to have a multiplier effect on this figure, but startup pioneers are reminding the 'devil will be in the details' and the direction of investment.

Queensland's startup sector has garnered attention in Australian politics over the past week, namely today upon the Palaszczuk Government's first State Budget.

Palaszczuk plans to quash sentiment that government plays no role in innovation and idea commercialisation through an 'Advance Queensland' package that is concerned with greater collaboration between science and business, and nurturing the startup ecosystem through private sector capital and skills.

This follows Prime Minister Tony Abbott's beeline to River City Labs on the weekend (pictured right), the tech co-working community pioneered by entrepreneur Steve Baxter, while its annual Startup Weekend activities were in full swing.

Yesterday, Palaszczuk referred to Singapore, Denmark, the US, China as having made inroads that Queensland can model its own roadmap on.

"Look at Singapore, Denmark, the US, China, among others - governments are investing heavily to pursue innovation-led 'smart' growth," says Palaszczuk.

"Governments can help to create and shape markets, before getting out of the way."

Steve Baxter (pictured below) says 'without a shadow of a doubt' this is the most promising package the State has outlined in recent years.

"This is much more than the previous government and the one before that - the numbers lend to some credible actions on face value," says Baxter. "But if funding is trapped in red tape, research institutions and universities, then it will all be for nought."

Baxter has a different idea of how to Advance Queensland, grounded in his own experience.

"There is though a lot of talk about research in these plans, through initiatives like fellowships and scholarships to strengthen our research base," Baxter says.

"Of the world's 25 most valued startups, only one has origins in research (Google). That alone tells you that if we think research is going to lead to some startup revolution, then we've got it all wrong. We proved that over the last 15 years. It shouldn't even be up for contention.

"It's high time we developed a plan to build more global companies in Queensland led by entrepreneurs and not the insistence that this must come from the academic sector."

That being said, Baxter says we need to invest in education to get results, and so welcomes the prominence of STEM education in Palaszczuk's plans.

He just doesn't want the recipients of STEM education to be immediately rendered as spokes on the wheel. 

"I'd like to make sure people who are benefitting from this investment in educational skills are given a little entrepreneurial spark," says Baxter.

The way to guarantee this?

"There is a lot of talk about incubators and accelerators but I hope this investment isn't just linked to universities - if it is, they need to really and truly be given an entrepreneurial fire as well," he says.

"Universities aren't actually creating wealth for too many organisations in the world and the vast majority of high growth companies do not come from universities and research.

"The knowledge transfer partnerships of postgraduate university kids to Queensland SMEs may be a good thing, but the tie in here is if we have lots and lots of really good graduates coming out of our universities they will find their way into business and startups anyway."

Peter Bradd (pictured right), the CEO of StartupAUS who is based in Sydney, says elements of the Queensland Budget should set a precedent for its counterparts. 

"The language Palaszczuk has used when talking about the startup sector was quite a shock for me and not something I have heard from her contemporaries," says Bradd.

"It's a well known fact that high-growth startups generate 70-90 per cent of new jobs, and the Queensland government is setting the agenda today for other states and territories. 

"I don't see why Brisbane couldn't be the startup capital; the cost of living and real estate is much cheaper, there are great universities and the budget is emphasising support and incentives for entrepreneurs wanting to relocate to Brisbane.

"There is a fierce fight for talent happening around the world in places like Singapore, China and Canada, and this really raises Brisbane's competitiveness."

Like Baxter, Bradd doesn't believe a focus on research and institutions is key in leveraging Brisbane's global position.

"Importing talent to Brisbane is a big thing because we currently lack the quantity of mentors to show the way. If you look at the IPOs of Facebook, Twitter, Google, they created 4000 millionaires and not only were they that, they created second wave startups and became mentors," says Bradd.

"Initiatives like visiting entrepreneurs programs don't always cost a lot of money - sometimes no money - and they can be most powerful of all."

 

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