Industry, Innovation and Science Minister Christopher Pyne. Photo: Sean Davey
We are a nation built on the ideas and creativity of our forebears.
Generations of Australians have been at the forefront of science and innovation for more than 200 years. Our achievements are numerous and today we still are producing the great researchers and the disruptive ideas.
But with a changing global economy and a decline in traditional manufacturing, our great challenge as a nation is to not just have the ideas, but have the ecosystem that allows Australians to pursue them.
That is why under the new Prime Minister, innovation has moved into the centre of public debate, and rightly so.
However, innovation has to be more than just a collection of buzzwords and good intentions. We need a whole of government approach that will drive a cultural shift.
Our aim is a country with a growing entrepreneurial spirit, a citizenry who are prepared to pursue their ideas, prepared to take a risk and prepared to try again if they fail.
The future of our economy and maintaining our standard of living as a first world country depends on it.
It is therefore excellent timing that the inaugural StartupWeek Sydney begins on Friday, focusing on new and innovative businesses, a community that has never before seen this level of energy and momentum.
The Prime Minster has asked me to lead a cross-portfolio task force to develop an innovation agenda, a plan to unlock the growth potential of innovation, boosting our economy and creating jobs.
The growth potential here is remarkable.
Startups drive employment growth, adding 1.44 million jobs to the economy from 2006- 2011.
Today’s startups, entrepreneurs and fledgling businesses will help fuel investment and jobs into the future.
And innovation is the key to their success and security.
Innovative businesses are twice as likely to report productivity increases than businesses that do not innovate.
Despite representing less than half of all employing businesses in the economy in 2011-12, innovative businesses accounted for around 70 per cent of total employment, total capital expenditure and total business income, and more than 80 per cent of total internet income.
PriceWaterhouse-Coopers modelling shows an innovation focused economy has the potential to raise GDP by $37 billion in 2024, with a longer contribution to GDP as high $136 billion in 2034, creating close to 540,000 jobs.
I want to unlock this potential.
Cutting-edge science and technology are key to creating an environment where Australian businesses can innovate, grow and prosper well into the future.
Last week the Prime Minister and I recognised the work of some of the nation’s brightest science minds.
The coveted Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science were awarded to six outstanding thinkers, whose creativity and endeavour are demonstrating the power science has to transform our economy.
At the awards ceremony, I noted how the work being done right now in labs, universities and institutions across the country will position us to succeed in the years, decades and generations to come.
We’re investing $9.7 billion in science, research and innovation – above the OECD average.
Our $225 million Industry Growth Centres are helping industry and research work together.
They’re identifying demand within industry for specific research and technical skills.
This will allow Australia to draw on its full range of research resources to create new opportunities to do business.
Our Entrepreneurs’ Programme helps startups commercialise good ideas, providing market and industry information and access to advice and skills.
Through the R&D Tax Incentive we are encouraging thousands of Australian companies each year to innovate.
To give you an idea of its effectiveness, the R&D Tax Incentive helped 13,000 companies with $2.4 billion in tax support for eligible R&D investment in 2014-15.
Our Co-operative Research Centres are promoting cutting-edge research in our universities and research institutions and producing graduates with hands-on industry experience.
These initiatives are all about better preparing our researchers to work directly with industry to convert ideas into real business outcomes.
And they’re being complemented by a range of other measures designed to help businesses get up and running – and then grow and prosper.
Greater tax concessions for employee share schemes will allow employees to share in, and benefit from, the future growth and success of the business.
We announced this week plans to reform crowdfunding, to make it easier for startups to get the money they need to get their ideas off the ground and turn their dreams into reality.
This government knows innovation is critical to Australia.
It’s an exciting time to be in the startups and innovation sector and this government wants to embrace an entrepreneurial, risk-taking culture which is critical to drive jobs and growth into the future.
Christopher Pyne is Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science. Fairfax Media is the media partner for StartupWeek Sydney.