Bill Shorten wants to give university graduates loans to launch a startup

Bill Shorten Photo: Cole Bennetts / Getty Images

Labor wants to offer HECS-style loans to final year university students or graduates to launch their own startups under a plan revealed today by opposition leader Bill Shorten.

Dubbed “startup year”, the $5 million program is designed to help 2000 students annually to establish a startup within a university or other accredited accelerator or incubator.

The ALP wants to expand the existing income-contingent loan system (HELP) for the funding. The loan, worth up about $10,000, can be used to cover the cost of the mentoring and professional suppport provided to the student by the program and will be paid back once they earn $54,000 or more. The proposal comes on top of an earlier “STEM” pledge to cancel student debts for up to 100,000 young people studying science, technology, engineering and mathematics at university, especially women, over five years.

Unveiling another branch of Labor’s startup policy, Shorten said his party would “invest $17.8 million in important reforms to drive a new generation of innovators, risk-takers and wealth-creators”, adding that the nation will need another 100,000 ICT workers in Australia by 2020.

“Labor believes Australia can be the startup, technology and science capital of Asia by supporting a new generation of innovators here, bringing great expats home and attracting the best minds from around the world,” Shorten said.

“The majority of jobs to be created over the next decade and beyond will be in companies that don’t exist today.”

The policy comes after Atlassian co-founder Scott Farquhar explained earlier this week that he has to import senior talent for the company because he can’t find it locally.

Shorten said Labor would create two new visa classes “to attract the best global entrepreneurial talent to help build Australia’s growing startup ecosystem”.

The startup entrepreneurial visa will be provided annually to 2,000 global entrepreneurs with $200,000 or more in capital who want to set up in Australia. The visa lasts for a maximum of 3 years, but may be extended for another year or converted to permanent residence after 2 years.

Another 2000 graduate startup entrepreneurial visas will be offered annually, allowing former students to stay in Australia for one year to establish a startup business after graduation. It could be extended for another year if the tertiary institution they’re aligned with says they’re making progress on the business.

Labor also wants to develop an online platform based on the US government’s , which lists competitions put forward by government agencies looking to solve “mission-centric problems”.

And in a bid to identify and overcome barriers to investment in Australian-based VC funds, the ALP wants to establish a body called the Innovation Investment Partnership, involving venture capitalists, superannuation funds and startups.

Labor is also looking to increase the commercialisation of university research, saying it wants to improve the links between universities and the startup community and encouraging universities to draw in private sector mentors and investors.

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