StartupWA took another step on our Government advocacy program yesterday.
The Innovation Industry Consortium meeting, convened at the Premier's office, provided another forum to encourage the Government to pursue an open, collaborative approach to the future of our State. We and others in the room also recommended a number of practical steps for growing the startup industry.
StartupWA has been lobbying for a 'roundtable' like this consortium meeting and were pleased to receive the invitation from Ministers Dave Kelly and Alannah MacTiernan. Both Ministers have large portfolios in a new government, and bring demonstrated ability to lead change in areas they are passionate about. With Innovation being a new portfolio, they wisely sought input from local experts - in this case, seventeen invitees including: marine entrepreneurs, social impact, angel investors, med-tech, co-working space providers, corporate innovation and games.
The purpose of this event was leaders in the field to recommend the best role for Government to play in a medium-term (ten-year) vision for innovation in Western Australia, especially focused on local job creation. The format gave each participant a few minutes to share their views followed by an open discussion. StartupWA's communication focused on:
- Entrepreneurship - as a key mechanism in job creation and economic growth, in contrast to the focus on domestic consumption in the State budget,
- Government’s role - in facilitating talent and trade with international markets, creating policies and regulations that enable local industries, and early engagement as customers for local innovators,
- Commitment – to implementation, ongoing industry engagement and incrementally grow a culture of innovation in government and the wider community.
We and other participants also questioned some of the framing assumptions - e.g. budgets that assume the State’s growth will come from domestic consumption; what types of jobs are desirable to create; and the scope and definition of innovation.
That first point is such a fundamental one: our State needs an economic approach that encourages new opportunities to grow out of existing industries and challenges. Having an open relationship with industry, and outward orientation to international markets is necessary in a world of increasingly rapid change and disruption. A short-term, small-target approach, trying to mitigate domestic political risk just does not cut it.
A very positive aspect of the Consortium meeting was the alignment of participants. There was very clear agreement on:
- WA support and policies being uncompetitive compared to other states, and the importance of sharing models and precedents they could replicate;
- The need to focus on areas or projects where the state already has a competitive advantage, and where we can grow industries;
- Ensuring there are open and accessible programs of support, not limited to certain types of industries and innovations;
- Co-investment with industry (networks, spaces, service providers) in programs and support for ventures at early stages, and co-investment with angels;
- Acknowledging barriers to retaining and growing local ventures – support, investment, government policy - while also recognising WA's advantages, such as lifestyle and timezone;
- Better directing existing government spending to support local innovations, through earlier engagement and more open procurement;
- Actually implementing the recommendations and programs, rather than lengthy delays in planning and procurement; and
- Many case studies of successes: startups, scale-ups, government departments and policies.
StartupWA congratulates the Ministers on their open approach, responsiveness to suggestions and engagement with a diversity of interests. Our subsequent reflections include:
- Pride at how strong and diverse the WA ecosystem has grown, with so little government support and involvement to date;
- The current Government must work closely with industry as only together will we grow the vision, strategy and commitment to implementation in developing WA as an attractive place to grow and support innovation;
- Actions speak louder than words. This financial year has seen the same or less investment as last year. While ‘business as usual’ without change is low risk, it isn’t “innovation”, and we need to see more cultural leadership, effective programs, and intelligent investment by Government.
StartupWA is committed to working with the Ministers, departmental staff and others in the ecosystem to grow the local technology startup industry and our WA economy.
While we hope good things will come of such meetings, our strategy is to engage practically, ongoing and effectively, to grow without delay.