“Welcome to the ideas boom,” prime minister Malcolm Turnbull said at the launch of the government’s innovation statement.
“Unlike the mining boom, it is a boom that can continue forever” he said.
The government’s innovation statement has four pillars: culture, collaboration, talent and skills, and government as an exemplar.
The policies are expected to cost $1.1 billion over four years.
“Our vision is for Australians to embrace risk, pursue ideas, learn from mistakes, and for Australian investors to back these ideas at an early stage.”
The government will create a $250 million biomedical research fund, and set aside $220 to commercialise CSIRO research through co-investment and an in-house accelerator.
There will be changes to the taxation of, and restrictions on, venture capital funds, encouraging more investment and allowing VCs to hold positions for longer.
There is a new program to support incubators, changes to bankruptcy laws, reforms to the employee share scheme and investor tax incentives, and changes to the taxation of “intangible assets” – patents, trademarks etc.
New incentives for investors include a 20% tax offset on the amount invested in startups – capped at $200,000 per investor per year, and a 10 year capital gains tax exemption if the investment is held for three years.
“We’re changing research funding incentives to support partnerships with industry, and we’ll invest in critical, world-leading research infrastructure to ensure our researchers have access to the very best.”
There will be new funding for university research centres and the creation of a cyber security centre and a centre for quantum computing in UNSW. The government will establish seed funds and five “landing pads” for startups in foreign cities, and create connections between universities, researchers, entrepreneurs, farmers and regional areas.
Creating a link between universities, entrepreneurs and regional areas was also a big part of Labor’s policies announced on Friday. Labor has proposed creating a series of regional innovation hubs.
Talent and skills
“We’ll link Australia to other innovative economies and change the visa system to attract more entrepreneurial and research talent from overseas. We’ll support all Australian students to have the opportunity to embrace the digital age and engage in emerging opportunities and careers.”
The government intends to create an “entrepreneur visa” and pathways to permanent residency for postgraduate students, to encourage more commercialisation of research.
The government also plans to spend $84 million over four years to “inspire” more Australians to take up STEM. Policies include improving teachers digital skills, funding to encourage more women and girls to choose and stay in STEM, and encourage the wider community to become more digitally literate.
Government as an exemplar
“We’ve consistently lagged behind the private sector in innovation so we must learn from our mistakes and begin backing new ways of doing business.”
The government spends more than $5 billion on information technology every year, so the government will emphasise new technologies and make it easier for startups to bid for contracts.
Policies include sharing and analysing government data, creating a “digital marketplace” for government contracts, and establishing an independent innovation and science organisation.
The creation of an independent innovation agency was also proposed by Labor on Friday.
More to come