Blackbird Ventures co-founder Bill Bartee is leaving to head a new $200 million CSIRO innovation fund

Nikki Scevak, Bill Bartee and Rick Baker, co-founders of Blackbird Ventures.

The federal government has lured a big-name exec from the startup industry to lead its new $200 million CSIRO Innovation Fund.

Industry, innovation and science minister Greg Hunt has appointed Blackbird Ventures co-founder and partner Bill Bartee to head the fund, which aims to “commercialise early stage innovations from CSIRO, universities and other publicly-funded research bodies”.

Bartee will reportedly be forced to divest his investments and directorships at Blackbird as a condition of the role. He has also been involved with NAB Ventures, co-founded Southern Cross Venture Partners and is a StartupAUS board member.

Bartee has been a “co-facilitator and designer of internal acceleration program” as a consultant to the CSIRO since May 2015, according to LinkedIn.

Hunt said the Innovation Fund, in commercialising research ideas, would “bridge the gap between science and industry”.

“It’s about maximising value from taxpayer-funded research and ensuring important discoveries make it beyond the laboratory,” he said.

“It will allow our innovators to meet industry half way by developing investable propositions, enabling our scientists to get their product to market more rapidly.”

The CSIRO’s most famous commercialised technology, wi-fi, will help pay for the initiative, with royalties contributing $30 million over 10 years to the fund. The government is also directly chipping in $70 million, while $100 million will come from wholesale private sector investment.

Finding that private sector money will be one of Bartee’s challenges in the new role. Those investors, the AFR reported, will get a 10% tax offset on contributions and a capital gains tax exemption because of the fund’s status as a “conditionally registered early-stage venture capital limited partnership”.

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