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Leading startup mentor Pete Cooper just grilled Wyatt Roy over 'slow lane innovation strategies'

It was not an easy night for Wyatt Roy.

The Turnbull government’s $1.1 billion “slow-lane” approach to innovation funding got slammed last night on Q&A by The Start Society founder Pete Cooper.

Assistant Minister for Innovation Wyatt Roy was on Monday night’s show talking about the government’s program, when Cooper started throwing questions at him around the level of money being invested compared to the private sector.

He was also critical of the government’s decision to tie innovation funding in with university research projects.

“Why aren’t we supporting start-ups in the budget statement and innovation statement? Why are we doing slow lane innovation strategies?” Cooper asked.

Roy tried to tip toe around the question, saying he was very optimistic about Australia’s future as an innovation nation, but expressed concern over becoming a clone of Silicon Valley.

“We have to create something that is uniquely Australian,” he said. Pointing out that the Australian lifestyle would be what attracts talent.

He also added that there was a big need for a culture and attitude change.

“We need to embrace more risk, we need to accept failure, we need to celebrate success,” he said.

But neither Cooper or host Tony Jones were happy with the answer.

“The money doesn’t match the words, mate,” Cooper said.

“Really, you know, Uber’s doing four times what you put over four years in four months.”

Jones added that, “Samsung, one company, one year [will spend] $18.6 billion in research and development.”

“Compare that to $250 million a year the government has put out,” he said.

It wasn’t an easy night for Wyatt Roy, the frontbencher also copped it from the audience around the NBN rollout.

“The NBN was going to be a cornerstone investment in the country’s infrastructure to drive the innovation ecosystem that we have talked about but also in the information economy,” audience member Simon Van Wyk said.

“Under the tutelage of the Prime Minister, we have seen the broadband speeds in Australia go from being 30th in the world to now 60th in the world. I’d like to know why the Government talks about wanting innovation but seems to be actively undermining the actual ecosystem that was going to drive some of that innovation, particularly outside the capital cities.”

Roy again staddled around the question, pointing out that in his electorate, Longman, 40,000 homes now have access to the NBN.

“These are people who had dial-up speed internet. I don’t think there is any point as a country saying you are going to wait a very, very long time for those sorts of people who are excluded from this conversation, not people in this room or this city with good internet connections, but 40 minutes from a capital city with dial-up speeds excluded from the gains you are talking about.”

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