Breakthrough Victoria backs MedTech commercialisation

Joseph Brookes
Senior Reporter

The Victorian government’s venture capital fund on Thursday announced it has invested $5 million into a Melbourne MedTech commercialisation firm as it faces renewed criticism from the state opposition over its impact.

The $2 billion Breakthrough Victoria firm followed a $37 million investment in a high altitude balloon company earlier this month with a $5 million injection into Neo-Bionica.

Established as a joint venture between the University of Melbourne and the Bionics Institute in 2021, Neo-Bionica is an end-to-end bioelectronic medical device commercialisation firm with dedicated Melbourne facilities.

Image: Breakthrough Victoria

Breakthrough Victoria announced the investment will create 45 high value jobs as state Treasurer Tim Pallas faced questions about the $2 billion venture fund at Budget Estimates.

The government stripped $360 million from Breakthrough Victoria in last week’s Budget while extending its investment horizon from 10 to 15 years.

It means the fund will support fewer companies and consortia from next financial year, with Budget documents showing a lower target of 10 investments. It made 19, 15 and 13 investments in 2023-24, 2022-23 and 2021-22, respectively.

The pull back followed criticism about the quality of Breakthrough Victoria’s investments — which include things like a US quantum firm, a dairy free milk producer, and a solar startup — and the costs of running the fund.

Breakthrough Victoria’s chief executive has rejected criticism about the operational costs, saying they are in line with private VC firms.

Mr Pallas on Thursday said 1,800 jobs can be attributed to investments made by Breakthrough Victoria since it commenced in 2021 — around 11 per cent of its original ten year target.

With the revised horizon, the jobs figure is closer to the intended pace, but the state Opposition seized on the figure and claimed the fund is “shrouded in secrecy”.

“Labor promised that its Breakthrough Victoria fund would deliver 15,700 new jobs, but so far after spending $330 million of taxpayers’ money, it is failing this measure by only achieving 1,800 jobs or 11 per cent of the target,” Shadow Minister for Industry and Innovation, Bridget Vallence said.

“The Minister has backpedalled his commitment that Breakthrough Victoria would achieve an eight per cent return on investment and refused to outline whether these investments are providing value for the Victorian economy.”

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