When it comes to innovation friendly business precincts both major parties agree we don’t have enough, but they diverge in the how and where of setting up smart real estate.
Speaking at the Innovationaus.com Innovation Policy Debate, Angus Taylor, the Coalition’s Assistant Minister for Cities and Digital Transformation, argued we need to do more to leverage our cities as startup centres and there needed to be far better co-operation in that task between Federal, State and local governments.
No real estate agent would argue with Mr Taylor’s assertion that when it came to innovation hubs, it’s all about location, location, location.
“Location still matters so clustering is all important,” he said.
“Do we have enough innovation districts in this country? Absolutely not. Can we create them? We sure can,” he said.
Precincts should be compact and either in or close to city or regional centre CBDs, near mass transit and in mixed use residential and commercial areas, Mr Taylor said.
The Coalition policies to drive formation of these innovation clusters were two-fold. The first was the City Deal idea where all three levels of government sign up for a major makeover of an area – the first of these should the Coalition win government on July 2 will be in Townsville and centred around development of a new football stadium.
The second was setting up a financing unit to help drive the infrastructure around an innovation precinct.
Opposition innovation spokesperson Ed Husic’s pitch was more focussed on lifting the innovation readiness of regional and outer urban areas, such as his electorate centred around Mt Druitt in far west Sydney.
Mr Husic said innovation policy needed to be sold to people who were afraid that disruption was a “a job killer.”
“The danger to innovation is we just stick in one part of the country,” he said. “Two thirds of startups in Australia come out of Sydney.”
Mr Husic’s answer to spreading the startup love comes by way of Regional Innovation Hubs which would take advantage of regional universities or other higher learning institutions to act as a base for smart business opportunities.
Both Mr Taylor and Mr Husic impressed debate attendees with their grasp of the needs of the innovation sector of the economy.
StartupAus CEO Alex McCauley wouldn’t pick a winner between Mr Husic and Mr Taylor.
“Innovation is the winner,” said Mr McCauley. “It’s a great moment for Australia when both sides of politics agree on this being a key area of economic policy.”
Mr McCauley said there needed to be more work done on developing policy around innovation precincts.
“This is one area where Australia is fundamentally behind,” he said.
Australian Information Industry Association CEO Rob Fitzpatrick chief said the debate brought up the necessity of selling innovation policy to the community at large.
“How do we motivate broader Australia. How do we get the person in the street to realise innovation is critical,” he said.
Venture capital and startup market observer Sandy Plunkett gave the debate to Mr Husic.
“He won the debate hands down if you want to pick a winner because he was more pragmatic and less sloganistic,” she said.
Ms Plunkett said the innovation debate needed to move “out of the weeds” of such things as where to put innovation precincts and into areas such as competition policy.