The organisation responsible for dishing out Victoria’s $60 million innovation fund will focus on encouraging more migrants and refugees to develop tech companies in its next round of grants.
LaunchVic, an independent body established by the Victorian Government to oversee the fund, has so far funded 26 separate projects a total of $11.4 million across two funding rounds.
It has now “refreshed” its strategy for the next two years.
In its third round of funding, which opened for applications on Thursday, LaunchVic will aim to fund projects that focus on supporting first generation migrants and current refugees in developing tech companies, Innovation minister Philip Dalidakis said.
“To be able to look at a funding round that’s exclusively focused on migrants and refugees in the startup sector is another way again of demonstrating our inclusiveness, diversity, tolerance and plurality,” Mr Dalidakis told InnovationAus.com.
“They’re all the things we believe make Victoria great, and it’s wonderful to be able to celebrate them in a sector of the community that is marginalised, underfunded, overworked, overstressed and underappreciated.”
In the funding round, LaunchVic will be investing between $50,000 and $500,000 per application for organisations that will deliver “quality educational, acceleration, incubator and mentoring or other programs for Victorian migrants and refugees”.
“In a sector that deals with people that are marginalised, that kind of support can go a long way and make a huge difference, so I’m looking forward to the innovative applications in terms of what they want to do, how they want to do it and where they want to do it,” Mr Dalidakis said.
“If applications request more than $500,000 they will still be considered, but they’d have to be exceptional for us to do so.”
He said research shows that migrants and refugees are twice as likely to start a business as those born locally, and are more willing to take risks.
The new strategy from LaunchVic aims to get more migrants and refugees involved with the state’s startup ecosystem and improve diversity in the sector, which is notoriously dominated by white men.
Applications for the third round of funding opened on Thursday and will close on 5 July.
The change in focus comes as LaunchVic has revealed its strategic plan for the next two years and a “refresh” of its focus, with more frequent funding rounds coming with a more targeted approach across four key areas.
This strategic change will ensure it is “meeting the needs of the startup sector and addressing market failures”, the report said.
“While we have a vibrant and active startup community, we need to do more to achieve our global potential. LaunchVic’s role is to help grow and assist Victoria’s startup ecosystem to achieve its potential as a diverse and internationally recognised centre of startup activity,” it said.
To determine the change in focus, LaunchVic studied “globally competitive ecosystems”, reviewed Victoria’s “key strengths” and consulted with over 125 stakeholders in the industry.
“All businesses need to continually review their operations, to ensure they are relevant to their customers and are meeting their goals,” LaunchVic CEO Kate Cornick said at the launch of the new strategy on Thursday.
“In January we set about reviewing our strategy, to make sure we support Victoria’s startup ecosystem to grow. The outcome of this is a more focused program with more frequent and targeted funding that will be distributed across four programs of work.”
The key areas of focus for upcoming funding rounds are diversity and inclusion, connecting startups with corporates, creating a stronger angel investor community and further building the state’s strength in the health sector.
“We want to see more founders with big ideas that have global reach; we want to develop a stronger investor community; we want to work with existing founders to ensure they have maximum chance of success; and we want startups to be better connected to corporates,” the LaunchVic report said.
Ms Cornick said the organisation’s ultimate aim is to establish the Victorian startup ecosystem as world-leading in its own right, not as a replica of other cities around the world.
“It’s very clear that we need to do if we are to grow the potential we have right here on our doorstep and position Victoria as a global ecosystem,” Ms Cornick said.
“We don’t need to be Silicon Valley or Tel Aviv. We have a very strong brand and a strong startup sector that makes us a destination in itself – something we want to capitalise on over the next two years.”