Federal Opposition launches innovation investment partnership to support Australian startups

12 May 2015

Building new investment alliances with the superannuation sector to support Australian startups and early stage innovation will be the focus of a new initiative launched by Opposition Leader Bill Shorten today.

Called the Innovation Investment Partnership, the Federal Opposition has today brought together peak organisations from the superannuation, venture capital and startup sectors in an effort to identify barriers holding back investment in Australian-based venture capital funds and early-stage enterprises.

The Federal Opposition was represented by Opposition Leader Bill Shorten and his Parliamentary Secretary (Assisting with Digital Innovation and Startups) Ed Husic, Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen, Shadow Communications Minister Jason Clare, Shadow Industry and Innovation Minister Senator Kim Carr and Shadow Financial Services Minister Jim Chalmers.

The Innovation Investment Partnership was announced in late September 2015 as part of Labor’s second wave of policy initiatives designed to promote the growth of startups in Australia.

Besides tackling skills shortages, regulatory and procurement reform, Labor believes more needs to be done to improve capital flows to support Australia’s startups.

At the meeting, participants confirmed that poor access to capital has been identified as one of the reasons behind Australia’s low rate of startup formation.

During widespread industry consultations, the Federal Opposition was told by venture capital and startup groups that they were keen to explore ways to tap into Australia’s $2 trillion savings pool and spur on innovation and job growth.

Today’s roundtable:

  • Identified access to capital as a major barrier to innovation in Australia

  • Said there was need for policy consistency to give confidence and certainty to invest

  • Listed regulatory and market barriers that hindered the ability of super funds and self-managed super funds to invest in venture capital funds

  • Proposed pursuing improved means of supporting translation funding to assist with the commercialisation of Australia’s world-leading research

  • Targeted ways to minimise VC management fees, which super funds identified as a significant deterrent to investment

  • Called for an examination of options for the Medical Research Future Fund to invest a small proportion of its portfolio towards research commercialisation and the establishment of medical research-specific venture capital

  • Strongly argued for maintaining the Research and Development Tax Incentive, which the Turnbull Liberal Government has already cut back - and is trying to cut further.

The meeting also heard wide support for the Innovation Investment Fund that Labor maintained in Government, which co-invested with private sector investors in venture capital funds to grow early-stage companies to commercialise Australian research.

While the Abbott-Turnbull Government abolished the fund, Labor has committed to reinstating a similar concept through a $500 million Smart Investment Fund, which we will further develop in consultation with the sector.

The Innovation Investment Partnership is just one of a range of policy initiatives forming Labor’s plan to get Australia started, including:

  • Give every child in Australia the opportunity to learn coding and computational thinking in school;

  • Establish a National Coding in Schools centre (NCIS) where business and industry can connect with teachers;

  • Establish a STEM teacher training fund to support 25,000 primary and secondary school teachers over five years to undertake professional development in STEM disciplines;

  • Encourage STEM graduates to teach, by offering 25,000 Teach STEM scholarships over five years, to address the shortage of qualified teachers. Recipients will get $5,000 when they commence a teaching degree and $10,000 when they complete their first year of teaching;

  • Provide 100,000 STEM Award Degrees – 20,000 a year for five years – which will provide a financial incentive for students to enrol in and complete a STEM undergraduate degree, in recognition of the significant public benefit of growing Australia’s STEM capacity. STEM Award Degree recipients will have their HECS debt written off upon graduation;

  • Offer a Startup Year at university to young Australians looking to start their own enterprise;

  • Through visa reform, attract the best entrepreneurial talent from around the world and help build Australia’s growing startup economy through two new visa categories;

More information about Labor’s plan to support startups and create the jobs of the future is available at www.futuresmartaustralia.org