The Western Australian government has opened nominations for the 2022 edition of its Innovator of the Year awards with a prize pool of $140,000 on offer.
The Western Australian Minister for Innovation and ICT Stephen Dawson on Tuesday launched the program, which has run since 2006. The program is being funded through the $16.7 million New Industries Fund.
In another New Industries Fund initiative, Mr Dawson announced that the first meeting of the Brain Gain Roundtable took place on Wednesday. The innovation think tank is chaired by Western Australia’s Chief Scientist Peter Klinken and organised to discuss measures to retain local talent as well as attract talent from overseas.
The prize pool for the Innovator of the Year awards is split between six awards, with the overall winner receiving $70,000. The remaining categories are for Emerging Innovation, Growth, Energy, Great for the State, and Wellbeing.
Winners will be selected based on the ability of the innovation to meet a market need in Western Australia, have commercial potential, and the level of impact the state government funding would have on the company. Applicants must also demonstrate they have the capability and capacity to support their innovation.
The Department of Jobs, Tourism, Science, and Innovation will make the final decision with recommendations from independent evaluation panels. Following the written application stage, finalists will deliver presentations to a second evaluation panel.
The first two categories are worth $20,000 while the latter three are considered Platinum Awards and each award $10,000. The Emerging Innovation category is for firms that have yet to generate revenue from their innovation in the application whereas the Growth category is for firms that have generated revenue. Applications for the awards close on 31 May and must comply with these guidelines.
There were eight finalists in the 2021 iteration of the awards in each of the Emerging Innovation and Growth categories, and 12 finalists across the Platinum Awards. All finalists are expected to attend business capability training sessions around August and September.
Beyond the cash prizes, finalists in the Emerging Innovation and Growth categories will also receive access to a number of workshops, seminars, and mentoring opportunities.
Mr Dawson described the Innovator of the Year program as “a platform for the state’s brightest technology minds to transform an idea into a real business”.
According to the minister’s office participants on the Brain Gain Roundtable were selected based on their “skills and experience of having lived and worked abroad, and then recently moving to WA”. It features a number of Western Australia-based business leaders, with nine specifically “innovation-focused entrepreneurs and corporate executives representing industries”.
Further, a 2021 survey undertaken by professional networking group Advance found that 65 per cent of Australians based abroad intend to Australia to live and work, 40 per cent of which will return by 2024.
Mr Dawson said that the roundtable would support the state government’s aim to diversify the economy.
“The Brain Gain Roundtable is a think tank for WA’s business leaders and innovation pioneers to create a blueprint of how to retain and attract the State’s best talent. Understanding our strengths and areas where we can make WA more attractive to investors and professionals will enhance WA as an investment, career and lifestyle destination,” he said.
He also noted that the roundtable builds on the $65 million ‘Like No Other’ campaign, launched last December, to attract visitors, students, investors and workers.
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