StartUps and the Innovation Nation


Tomorrow Malcolm Turnbull’s long awaited Innovation Statement is released with  huge promise, it is expected to cover five areas unlocking capital, access to Asia, greater collaboration across public and private sectors, growing the talent pool and government as exemplar in leading innovation culture. I am hopeful and a little optimistic that the statement encompasses definitive action that shifts us from talking about it to actually doing it…it’s time.

This week StartUp Muster 2015 , Australia’s largest survey of startups, was released with pertinent information on the state of startups in Australia.

The good news is that things are getting better, we are improving on gender at least when it comes to gender we are at 24% , up 8% from 2011. It’s also heartening to see that the majority of startups intend to remain in Australia. It will be interesting to see how many actually do.


Talk to some of the startups generated out of NICTA (now Data61), Fishburners, muru-D and, more recently, Australia’s s first FinTech hub, Stone and Chalk, that solve big problems and how hard it has been to remain in Australia. A lot of start ups need to re-locate their businesses overseas to access the incentives and tax deductions needed to accelerate and grow.


Challenges for startups

The survey found that the biggest external challenges faced by startups are the availability of tech talent, the availability of government scholarship and grants and non government funding.

There are a number of state and federal grants available to startups and business, outlined by including the Entrepreneurs’ ProgrammeGrowth FundIndustry Skills FundInnovation and R&DCollaborationDefence IndustryEnergy and Fuels,Import and Export AssistanceManufacturingRegional Innovation FundsAustralian Small Business Advisory Services, and Venture Capital.

Access to global markets shouldn’t be an issue, especially now we have the Free Trade Agreements in place to help Australian business access China, Korea, Japan and the Trans Pacific partnership (Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, United States, and Vietnam). The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade have resources with information and advice on How business can use FTAs which can unlock enormous potential.

Joining the dots 

The challenge remains, how to prepare business and start ups to understand and leverage the opportunities presented?

There remains a disconnect between government and the business, startup and entrepreneurial ecosystem. StartUp Muster has set the agenda of what we need to think about and, CEO, Mon Wulff has started the conversation with government and Ministers about what is needed. It seems to me, we need to just connect the dots between what is available and what is needed.

The Assistant Minister for Innovation has heard what the ecosystem wants and I know in my heart he has advocated fiercely for action, inspired by his recent mission to Israel, Minister Wyatt Roy has seen what happens when government creates the right conditions and gets out of the way of entrepreneurs and startups.

So as we await the Prime Minister’s  Innovation Statement, lets contemplate thecommunication and engagement required to connect the dots and really make this work, after all the agenda for innovation has been set long before this statement, it started with a renewed vigor across cabinet for Australia to become the #InnovationNation and it has been called for by the startup and entrepreneurial community for some time.

Anne-Marie Elias is a speaker and consultant in innovation and disruption for social change. She is an honorary Associate of the Centre for Local Government at UTS.

Anne-Marie has recently joined the Board of Western Sydney Women; the Australian Open Knowledge Foundation; Autism Advisory Board, and the Settlement Services International Foundation.

Follow Anne-Marie’s  journey of disruptive social innovation on Twitter @ChiefDisrupter or visit