NSW govt promises fresh start for state innovation

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Joseph Brookes

After slashing funding in Tuesday’s Budget, the Minns government has promised a new ‘innovation blueprint’ to spur startups, emerging technologies and sectors like advanced manufacturing and energy.

Announced on Friday by Minister for Innovation, Science and Technology Anoulack Chanthivong, the new plan will be released next year after consultations with the innovation sector, businesses and universities through a series of roundtables and targeted consultations.

The goal of the new plan is to again attract and grow investment, ideas, industries and talent in the state, but in an easier to navigate way for both program administrators and the innovation sector.

Innovation minster Anoulack Chanthivong, Deputy Premier Prue Car and Premier Chris Minns. Image: Facebook

“The last government treated multi-million dollar grants as great headlines but beyond the spin they failed to fully fund their own programs and failed to treat taxpayer money with the respect it deserves,” Mr Chathivong said.

“Getting this right will help us foster a strong innovation sector, create the industries that will fuel the jobs of the future, and attract talent.”

InnovationAus.com understands metrics will be a key focus, with the minister putting a emphasis on understanding the impact of investments and programs.

No timeframe has been given but the government has begun planning the roundtables and wants the Innovation Blueprint ready by the first half of next year.

Tuesday’s Budget saw several existing innovation programs abandoned, others trimmed and some unaccounted for, as the Minns government clawed back $13 billion to put the state on track to post a small surplus next financial year.

The cuts came after the programs were caught up in a pre-Budget review in May that helped identify the savings, meaning there has been reduced support for the innovation sector for many months.

According to Budget papers released on Tuesday, almost a third of the Department of Enterprise, Investment and Trade’s grants and subsidies budget was not spent last year.

Opposition upper house member Jacqui Munro said the government’s first Budget was a disappointing one for funding innovation, industry and trade.

“It has been an incredibly disappointing year for people in the start-up and innovation industry,” Ms Munro told Parliament on Wednesday.

“Whether it is research and development, hiring new staff or trying to rent new premises, there has been a total disregard for the needs and wants of the industry to help it grow and flourish. There is a lack of vision and foresight in the Budget.”

Around $764 million was left unspent from the Department of Enterprise, Investment and Trade’s $2.5 billion grant and subsidy programs last year. The Minns government has opted to cut this funding for the next year – by 56 per cent on what had been budgeted or by 36 per cent on what had actually been spent.

“It will have a significant impact on the State’s ability to promote and support innovation,” Ms Munro said.

“The NSW Innovation and Productivity Scorecard from last year noted that New South Wales has had Australia’s strongest multi-factor productivity growth over the past 10 years. That is being put at risk and jobs are being put at risk.”

The scorecards have also shown that other measures like university-industry collaboration in the state and government and business investment in research and development have stalled or gone backwards.

The Tech Council of Australia welcomed the announcement of an Innovation Blueprint but urged speed and said the cuts to existing programs put New South Wales at a disadvantage.

“We recommend that the government work with the industry to quickly clarify what grant funding is available, and how companies can apply for it, to minimise the impact of the changes on the industry to provide certainty for businesses accessing funding,” Tech Council of Australia chief executive Kate Pounder said.

“We welcome the Innovation Blueprint process as it provides the opportunity to develop a sustainable future funding model. Speed is of the essence in ensuring that a funding gap doesn’t open up for innovative businesses in NSW.”

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

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