Industry leaders commend launch of Australia’s $392M Industry Growth Program

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Speakers at the National Innovation Policy Forum have expressed their support for the Australian government’s $392 million Industry Growth Program, officially launched on Monday, 27 November. 

In her 2023 Ralph Slayter Address on Science and Society, Australian businesswoman Catherine Livingstone said the Industry Growth Program poses several opportunities for the sector. 

“The announcement of the Industry Growth Program is very welcome because, even to the extent that venture funding for early-stage translation is available, the dilution through low valuations and subsequent funding rounds means that control, and IP, passes to the Venture Capitalists who often represent offshore interests. 

“This is particularly important for IP in sectors which are just emerging, such as Space, Cleantech, and Quantum Computing and in which Australia has world-leading IP and capability. We need to acknowledge that the innovation system is global and will not be optimising for Australia’s national interest.” 

Dr Cathy Foley, Australia’s chief scientist, noted that Australia has a scale-up problem, not a start-up problem. 

According to Foley, medium-sized businesses in the nation are underrepresented and struggling, with the Australian industry structure heavily skewed into micro-businesses, compared with international counterparts. 

“Our domestic market in Australia is small, and that’s why our businesses stay small,” Foley said. “Many priority industries in Australia have a low Revealed Comparative Advantage. These industries would require disruptive innovations to compete in international markets.” 

The National Innovation Policy Forum convened business innovators and research leaders to identify initiatives that would help evolve the Australian innovation system to best support the country’s needs. 

The forum called for a maturation of the Australian innovation system, with stronger investment in systems proven to be able to scale, and clear and long-term policy signals to unlock R&D investment from government and business. 

“Our challenge is to support that Australian innovation while it’s still in Australia. Instead of our innovators having to take their ideas to other countries, we need to invest in the development and manufacture of Australian ideas on shore,” said Jane O’Dwyer, CEO of Cooperative Research Australia