The shock departure of NSW Premier Mike Baird and the ascension of Gladys Berejiklian has produced a raft of changes on the ministerial decks, with former innovation minister Victor Dominello promoted to the portfolio’s senior role as Finance Minister.
The former parliamentary secretary to the Treasurer Matt Kean – a strong supporter of Ms Berejiklian who helped organise the numbers that got her the premiership – was sworn in as the state’s new Minister for Innovation and Better Regulation.
Former Finance Minister Dominic Perrottet was promoted in to become Treasurer.
These senior changes are good news tech in government, and represent a steady-as-she-goes endorsement of the progress the NSW Government has made in its ICT reform and digital service delivery roll-out.
Certainly the industry will welcome the continuity of personnel. With Mr Dominello now running the Finance portfolio the tech industry has an an enthusiastic supporter – and ultimately a safe pair of hands.
Mr Kean is the Member for Hornsby and was elected to the NSW parliament in the Coalition landslide of 2011. Prior to politics he was a chartered accountant with PWC.
He inherits a portfolio that has to deliver on two fronts – energising change in digital service delivery and procurement inside the NSW public service and fostering entrepreneurship, startup culture and innovative practices within the disparate NSW economy, Australia’s largest.
The latter goals have become politically charged in recent years. The Malcolm Turnbull-led Federal Coalition’s policy initiatives and mantra of being ‘agile and nimble’ might have been music to inner city startup communities, but fell flat in the wider electorate where innovation has come to be equated with a trip to the dole queue.
The big challenge for Mr Kean will be in helping outer city and regional business areas embrace twenty-first century business skills in ways that make sense to their markets and communities. InnovationAus.com contacted Mr Kean’s office for comment but he was not available.
His predecessor, Mr Dominello, leaves behind plenty of newly minted initiatives for Mr Kean to follow through on.
In November last year Mr Dominello hatched a Ministerial Innovation Committee to oversee innovation strategy and created an Innovation Concierge to screen entrepreneurs wishing to do business with the NSW government who might have become bewildered by the government’s 160 points of entry.
“The Concierge is a way for individuals and organisations, to ask questions about innovation in government and submit proposals for government to be more agile. Importantly feedback will be given on ideas, and in the same way you can track a parcel and see where it is on its journey, we’re aiming to achieve a similar level of service,” Mr Dominello told a conference late last year.
“Timing is key and people should be able to see how their ideas are progressing inside of government, rather than going into the mysterious void.”
The committee is to employ a ‘Shark Tank’-like arena where industry experts can advise the government on whether an innovative idea should progress. The idea is to provide a foil to ‘Yes Minister’ style gatekeepers who stymie change.
At the time, Mr Dominello also plucked $10 million from the Jobs for NSW initiative to grow the state’s network of incubators and accelerators, as well as providing $3 million in 2016-17 as direct grants to startups. The government’s Innovation and Productivity Council, chaired by ex NICTA chairman Neville Stevens had its membership boosted.
There’s also the NSW Data Analytics Centre shepherded into being by Mr Dominello in August 2015 that had 22 projects on the go by November along with 25 staff and a budget of $17 million over four years.
Another leftover for Mr Kean from Mr Dominello is putting in place regulatory sandboxes, such as employed by ASIC to help FinTech’s test out ideas.
“We will work with NSW regulators to create sandboxes, which will allow innovators to test new solutions, markets and business models currently constrained by NSW regulations,” Mr Dominello said, suggesting agtech, blockchain, health and energy tech and social innovation as possible areas for the sandbox treatment.
Meanwhile, startups and SMEs scored a lift in the ceiling of the Procurement Innovation Stream, an administrative device that makes it easier for them to do business with government. The project cost ceiling was lifted from $250,000 to $1 million.