Qld innovation chief seeks an Olympic boost

Joseph Brookes
Senior Reporter

Queensland’s new chief entrepreneur will appoint a new government advisory group with a focus on members from regional areas and Indigenous representation as his first act in the role, and is planning to develop new innovation strategies around the state’s expected Olympics hosting in 2032.

Wayne Gerard, who co-founded asset management software provider RedEye in 2012 and was on the expert panel that developed the state’s innovation program Advance Queensland in 2015, was last month named Queensland State Entrepreneur.

“I want to help Queensland’s economy to really have more options,” Mr Gerard told InnovationAus.

“As the economy changes, we have a responsibility as good stewards to create the next wave of industry that sustains the standard of living for Queenslanders. I’m a big fan of build it don’t buy it. Let’s not fund jobs in other jurisdictions, let’s fund the jobs in Australia and Queensland.”

For the first time, the role is to be accompanied by an advisory council to work in tandem on advising government on innovation and startup programs. Mr Gerard will appoint the council and has already selected four experts, with discussions currently underway with several more.

Wayne Gerard
Queensland chief entrepreneur Wayne Gerard

He said the council would represent all the different stakeholders in the innovation ecosystem, including often overlooked groups and those outside capital cities. The council will develop a new strategy for providing government with advice on funding and policy.

The new council builds on the Regional Entrepreneurship Acceleration Program (REAP) developed by MIT to drive innovation by drawing on five key stakeholder groups – government, risk capital, universities, entrepreneurs and corporates.

“We’ve taken that REAP model, those five stakeholder groups in essence, and we’ve expanded it to include our regional and First Nations stakeholders. Because of the nature of Queensland, we really do think across the entire state,” Mr Gerard told InnovationAus.

Rather the putting startups or entrepreneurs at the centre of innovation, Mr Gerard plans to build ecosystems around the customer and the opportunities they bring.

“I believe that you have got to solve the problems, and then you get the opportunity to build businesses.

“So we’re going to put the customer at the centre, and we’re going to focus on then surrounding the customer with the entrepreneurs and researchers and the talent, and giving the entrepreneurs access to funding and making sure that happens both in the regions and with our First Nations people.”

Just three weeks in, Mr Gerard said he has already organised roundtables on talent development and attraction, and spoken with several universities on research translation and commercialisation.

The state’s new chief entrepreneur will also look to Queensland’s potential hosting of the 2032 Olympics as a way to drive innovation. He has written a “digital innovation and inclusion plan” for the games.

An official vote by the International Olympic Committee on Wednesday is widely seen as a rubber stamping event after Brisbane was named the preferred host in February and backed by the IOC board last month.

“I think the Olympics provides a once in a generation opportunity for us to link innovative Queensland companies, products and services to a really high-profile activity that’s going to create a legacy for Queensland and Australia,” Mr Gerard said.

The games provide huge cross industry innovation opportunities during what has been touted as the first carbon-neutral Olympics, Mr Gerard said, ranging from infrastructure and transportation to sports science, security and ticketing.

“This is really a true cross-industry opportunity to focus on something that allows Queensland to deliver the most amazing Olympics and also to build a tech and innovation industry that solves problems that are going to be relevant everywhere,” he said.

Mr Gerard said Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and Innovation Minister Stirling Hinchliffe have already expressed support for having a focus on digital and innovation inclusion in the Olympics.

“I’m really hoping that the announcement, which is due this week, is positive for Queensland. And if that’s the case, then there’ll be a true rallying around how do we identify all the opportunities and then get the right, industries and communities and stakeholders engaged.”

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

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