The federal government has opened a tender for four regional incubator facilitators as part of the Industry department’s revamped Entrepreneurs’ Programme.
These facilitators are being asked to provide mentoring and support services for regional incubators, and provide feedback and guidance to incubators looking to apply for funding through the program. The facilitators would also provide links between startups and business, industry and universities in regional Australia.
The tender calls for organisations and single persons to apply for the initial one year contract, with options to extend it for up to two years.
The regional incubator facilitators will be located in, or within reasonable travelling distance of, northern Queensland, central and mid-north New South Wales and southern Queensland, south Western Australia and south-west Victoria and south-east South Australia.
“Regional incubator facilitators will assist in developing projects and support regional startups by providing links between business, industry and universities, encouraging regional innovation,” small business Minister Craig Laundy said.
The Incubator Support program has already dished out nearly $5 million in funding, but only a small amount of this cash has gone to regional programs, despite the government “refocusing” it early last year to target programs outside of the major cities.
The Incubator Support program was first announced as part of the National Innovation and Science Agenda in late 2015 with $8 million in funding. It received a further $15 million as part of the 2016 election campaign.
The program originally provided grants of up to $500,000 for new and existing incubators, and up to $25,000 for experts-in-residences, with the government providing 50 per cent of the total grant value.
But in last year’s budget, government announced a “refocusing” of the program to focus on regional innovation development.
This move was slammed by the opposition, who accused the government of doing a “cut and run” and stripping the program of its funding. StartupAus CEO Alex McCauley said the change was “perplexing” at the time.
Last October a number of new recipients of grants were announced, but it was still unclear how the program had been refocused, and how it was assisting regional incubators. Only one of the new applicants was from a regional location.
In December, the then assistant minister for industry innovation and science Craig Laundy finally revealed the changes to the program, with the government now providing up to 65 per cent of funding for a project where 80 per cent of activities are conducted in a regional area.
Regional incubators are now required to provide half the minimum cash contribution to the grant as that of a metropolitan incubator.
The funding allocated to experts-in-residences was also increased to $100,000. Mr Laundy also announced the four new regional incubator facilitators to help regional incubators access the funding on offer.
“Incubators and accelerators are a vital part of effective innovation ecosystems, providing hands-on support to Australian startups so they have the best chance at global success,” Mr Laundy said.
“We have listened to feedback from the community and have expanded the Incubator Support initiative to make it more accessible for regional applicants,” he said.
“We’re boosting the support available to startup businesses in regional areas and the services and capabilities of incubators and accelerators in these regions.
“This builds on the current initiative that has already awarded over $4.9 million to a number of incubators nationally.”