An unlikely rivalry has emerged as the most compelling state-versus-state contest for attracting the best and most promising startup talent.
Victoria and Queensland have both developed a set of different policies that aim to make each the most startup-friendly state in the country. The aim, of course, is to lure companies from around Australia and from across the world.
Queensland’s HotDesQ program is unashamedly attempting to poach promising young tech companies from other states, and from offshore.
HotDesQ offers grants of between $50,000 and $100,000 for companies to relocate to the state for six months. It also offers co-working space, mentorship and support from one of 13 host locations around the state.
The $8 million program announced its first 25 participants earlier this month, who are now slowly beginning to set up shop in Queensland.
Among them are companies from New York, Taiwan and London, along with interstate startups poached from under the noses of the NSW and Victorian state governments.
Queensland Minister for Innovation, Science and the Digital Economy Leeanne Enoch says the program was inspired by a similar initiative in Chile.
“It’s part of a suite of initiatives that were established under the Advance Queensland agenda,” Ms Enoch tells InnovationAus.com. “It’s one of the many that are designed to build the Queensland innovation ecosystem right across every single regional base.”
“We’re attracting recipients from various parts of Australia or overseas. There are some people from Queensland who have gone to Silicon Valley and places like that and we’re trying to attract them to come back and be part of the our ecosystem.
“We’re trying to attract that expertise into the state to be able to accelerate our growth and the maturity of our ecosystem,” she said.
HotDesQ is in stark contrast to the Victorian government’s efforts in the same space.
Although the southern state has placed emphasis on bringing international tech companies to its city, its internal efforts, mainly through LaunchVic, have centred on projects that support the wider ecosystem, rather than directly supporting individual startups.
Victorian Minister for Innovation Philip Dalidakis says he is keenly watching the actions of other states, but is yet to be inspired to alter any policies.
“There’s honestly nothing happening around the country that I look at and think somehow we need to refine our own policy,” Mr Dalidakis told InnovationAus.com.
“The Queensland government is doing some interesting things and that’s great. We need to recognise that we shouldn’t be looking to try to get companies to move from state to state, we should be creating an environment where companies want to thrive and succeed, not just get by and survive.
“If Queensland and New South Wales have policy settings that do that, then the ecosystem across the country is the winner. I’m all for competition in government policy.”
Ms Enoch also won’t be drawn into sparking an all-out startup war between states.
“It doesn’t matter where you are in Australia or in the world, every government understands how important innovation is to our economy as we move into a new future,” she says.
Queensland’s innovation is scattered into “pockets”, Ms Enoch says, and the state’s policy efforts in this area are aimed at fostering commercialisation and bringing the ecosystem together.
“Some places we’re seeing maturity happen really quickly and in others it’s still just growing – that’s why we’re trying to find lots of ways to support that growth,” she says.
“We recognise that as a state we have over the last 16 or 17 years had huge investment in research infrastructure with the Smart State initiative. We are great at the research side, but not so much at commercialisation.”
To address this issue, the Queensland government looked to the rest of the world for inspiration, taking away different aspects from the likes of London, Silicon Valley and Chile to formulate the Advance Queensland model.
“We looked across Australia and the globe to see what has worked elsewhere and brought it all together to provide a real tapestry of initiatives,” Ms Enoch says. “If you thread together everything happening in Queensland you can create our picture of the future.”
These policies from around the world have been molded to play on Queensland’s natural strengths – agriculture, mining, tourism and international education, she says.
“Innovation is nothing more than turning ideas into action – there’s nothing scary or new about it,” Ms Enoch says. “We have this tapestry of initiatives that we want for every part of the state in every industry, from the small fish and chips shop down the road to the high tech company in Brisbane. Every can be part of this conversation going forward.”
A year-and-a-half since Advance Queensland was officially launched, the state has announced 21 new programs.
With these initiatives now in motion, next year is about consolidating this work and ensuring the broader innovation message is conveyed to all Queenslanders, Ms Enoch says.
“We have set an absolutely cracking pace,” she says. “We’ve accelerated as fast as we could, and next year we’ll be supporting all of those stories going forward, and we’ll start to see the outcomes.
“We want to weave those stories into the psyche of everyday Queenslanders, who’ll all benefit from innovation.”
“STEM skills, entrepreneurial spirit and a creative ability to solve problems and create businesses is going to be crucial for my kids and for their kids.”