WA startups press ideas for innovation strategy update

Brandon How

The Western Australian startup ecosystem is fired-up and ready to help drive the next stage of development following a state government-led innovation roundtable focused on next steps for the state.

StartupWA chair Jason Balchand says some of the initiatives discussed include making government procurement more accessible to startups, as well as enabling entrepreneurship training in schools.

There was also a call for further funding support for more programs in the innovation ecosystem. Cullum Ashton, general manager of property technology representative body PropTech Hub WA, highlighted this concern.

“We have a $16.7 million budget for innovation. Victoria has $600 million and Queensland has $700 million. Would you go to the battlefield with 16.7 soldiers, against 600 over there and 700 over there?” Mr Ashton asked.

The last Western Australian government’s innovation strategy was released in 2016 and was supposed to provide a four-year framework. Western Australian Innovation and ICT Minister Stephen Dawson said an updated innovation strategy was still in the early stages of an update.

(Left to Right) Innovation Minister Stephen Dawson and Legislative Assembly member Christine Tonkin Image: Facebook

Organised by Legislative Assembly member Christine Tonkin, the roundtable drew an audience of 50 innovation representatives alongside Mr Dawson. According to Ms Tonkin’s inaugural speech to the legislative assembly in May 2021, she spent the last 20 years working on public procurement and related reform.

Also in attendance was Charlie Gunningham, director for innovation at the WA Department of Science, and Innovation. Mr Gunningham oversees the distribution of the state’s $16.7 million New Industries Fund.

The chair of representative group StartupWA Jason Balchand described the sentiment of the roundtable as “100 per cent optimism”. Further, he believes that Mr Dawson is going to be a “big advocate for change” while he oversees the innovation portfolio.

“He understands that there’s a lot of barriers that need to be removed to speed up the diversification of the economy. And one of the comments he made was, that if there’s anything he can do with a stroke of a pen, that we should all bring it to him and if he can fix it straightaway, he will just fix that straightaway,” Mr Balchand said.

StartupWA will meet with the minister again in the coming weeks and hopes to establish regular meetings to convey the needs of the ecosystem.

Amanda Walker, co-founder of online booking platform WA HomeStay, said that the roundtable was her “first experience of such a broad cross section of the innovation community coming together … to feedback directly to the minister”.

Ms Tonkin said she was encouraged by the Innovation minister’s participation in the roundtable. The report from the roundtable will be finalised in a month with a separate report expected to be filed to the Innovation minster later in the year.

The member for Churchlands is also undertaking a survey of the innovation ecosystem to produce a public report as well as an opt-in database of innovators. The survey has received 70 responses so far with the report planned to be presented to the innovation minister at the end of July.

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

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