It’s great to be here at the Innovation Centre Sunshine Coast, on the University of the Sunshine Coast Sippy Downs campus. I want to thank Andrew and Mark for inviting me here to be part of today’s events.
I’m aware of the important work the Innovation Centre has been doing in this region for the past 16 years. In particular, your work in supporting startups and promoting science, technology, engineering and mathematics and innovation.
Startups, STEM and innovation are indispensable building blocks of a modern economy and I want to thank you for your fantastic work.
The Sunshine Coast has so much economic potential and your work at this centre will help unlock opportunities for building this region’s prosperity. The Sunshine Coast’s population is forecast to grow by 8300 people each year to over 385,000 by 2026.[i] In fact, ABS figures show places like Peregian Springs are among the fastest growing areas in Queensland[ii].
We need to support entrepreneurs with innovative ideas for creating business opportunities and jobs to meet the needs of a growing population. That is why the Coalition Government’s assistance to business incubators to support entrepreneurial activity in this and other regions is so important.
Innovative entrepreneurs and startups play a critical role in the Australian economy. They bring new products and services to market and drive job creation. There are many great examples of Queensland startups making waves around the world. Like SafetyCulture, a Townsville-based company that provides mobile solutions for workplace safety, and Earth Radar, a Brisbane firm that specialises in ground penetrating radar technology.
These firms have all developed innovative products and services, gone global and made significant impacts on state and regional economies. But businesses need to keep finding new ways to operate to stay competitive and create jobs. Indeed, starting a business is one thing; staying in business and continuing to create jobs is another.
In an increasingly competitive global environment, being innovative is no longer an optional add-on. The inescapable forces of technological disruption and globalisation mean businesses need to innovate to avoid falling behind their competitors.
The government is committed to helping innovative startups stand on their own feet, get a foothold in global markets and support regional development. We want all Australians, including those living in regional areas, not just in capital cities, to share in the benefits of innovation and innovative businesses. And we’re taking bold steps to achieve this goal.
First, we are investing heavily in building on the foundations of Australia’s innovation system—that is, our science, research and technology capabilities. The Coalition’s committed some $2.4 billion to those capabilities through this year’s Budget.
This is on top of our $1.1 billion National Innovation and Science Agenda, as well as other investments in Australia’s research, science and technology. We want all Australians to share in the job, business and other economic opportunities created by innovation, technology and science.
We have a number of programs to support business innovation, innovative startups and entrepreneurship. For example, the Entrepreneurs’ Programme provides a suite of advisory and facilitation services and grants to help small and medium firms to innovate, compete and grow.
To date, more than 12,000 Australian firms have accessed the program, with over $261 million in grants awarded. Services are delivered through four streams.
The first stream, the Business Management stream, helps businesses to build and embed management capability.
The second, Innovation Connections, helps firms to engage and partner with researchers.
The third, Accelerating Commercialisation, provides expert guidance to help firms to develop and execute a commercialisation strategy.
And the fourth, Incubator Support, helps to build global-ready startups and develop the startup ecosystem.
We recognise that incubators and accelerators play a key role in guiding and mentoring startups to realise their business goals and opportunities.
The Incubator Support initiative provides grant funding to help new and existing incubators improve the prospects of Australian startups achieving commercial success in international markets. It also provides matched funding to bring national and international experts into incubators to equip startups with research, managerial and technical expertise and mentoring.
Since the launch of the initiative in 2016, we’ve funded 67 projects worth $10 million across Australia, in capital cities and regional areas: from the Sunshine Coast to the Hunter Valley to Mount Gambier.
These projects are helping innovative, globally focused Australian startups to improve their prospects of commercial success.
We want to make sure these incubators help nurture more globally competitive firms. We want to make sure regional businesses in particular have the best chance to develop their innovative ideas, get them to market and bring economic benefits, including jobs, to local areas.
Incubator Support allows regional businesses to get the resources and networks they need to grow. This reflects the importance we place, as a government, on regional development and growth.
I am pleased the Australian government is helping the Innovation Centre Sunshine Coast and its partners to continue to support Australian startups.
I’ve been encouraged by the great work you do here. I’m told you’ve hosted more than 200 startups and high-growth firms in the past 16 years, and helped startups raise over $34 million in early-stage capital[iii].
This is in addition to the hundreds of jobs and student placements you’ve helped create. I understand the benefit for the Sunshine Coast Region exceeds $60 million in economic value[iv].
It makes good economic sense, therefore, that the government is able to support you and your partners through the Incubator Support Initiative. Last month, I was pleased to announce $120,000 in new grants for this centre to deliver the Australian Health Accelerator Program, in partnership with the Sunshine Coast Health Institute.
Over the next two years, this program will help 20 startups build their capabilities from both their business sites and the Sunshine Coast Health Institute site.
These startups will be able to benefit from this training, education and research facility located alongside the new USC Hospital. They’ll have access to clinical research laboratories, multipurpose learning areas, e-learning areas and hands-on clinical training in hi-tech simulation facilities that might otherwise be out of their reach.
This clustering and partnership is a great example of collaboration and innovation and the Australian government is proud to be part of it.
Congratulations to all the project partners. I look forward to seeing the results in the years ahead.
Last year the Sunshine Coast celebrated its 50th anniversary as a region. The celebration highlighted how the Sunshine Coast has changed, prospered and developed a strong identity as a regional centre in the past five decades.
This region, with its great potential, will continue to evolve as one of Australia’s leading innovative regions. Innovative startups and business incubators and facilitators such as the Innovation Centre Sunshine Coast will play a pivotal role in this evolution.
You’ve already demonstrated you have what it takes to help deliver economic benefits to this region. I wish you every success in your current and future endeavours.
[i] Sunshine Coast Council (2018) Sunshine Coast Council area: Population and Household Forecasts 2016 to 2026
[ii] ABS 3218.0—Regional Population Growth, Australia, 2016–17
[iii] Taken form their Incubator Support Application
[iv] Taken form their Incubator Support Application