Australia’s Victorian Government Is A Model Of Innovation

This article is part of a series on Melbourne called ‘Melbourne, Becoming a World Class Tech Hub’

Many people in the private sector, especially technology and start-ups, believe governments get in the way of innovation and hamper competitiveness. Traditional government is cumbersome and can be painfully slow when it comes to making decisions and executing them.

At a federal level, Australia’s government is still trying to figure out its role in technology and innovation. You could even say it is regressing in some ways. Just this year, funding was repealed from the federal budget for the Innovation Investment Fund (IIF) and Commercialisation Australia, two important pillars of a support system for Australian technology and innovation. They were however replaced by a new Entrepreneurs’ Infrastructure Programme, which will receive only half the value of funding. This is in contrast to other governments, like Singapore who are surging ahead with investment into innovation.

Melbourne – Being the ‘Best place to live in the world’ is good for business

On a State level though, things are easier to manage and move faster. Australia’s Victorian Government is particularly progressive and supportive of innovation. It has taken a well-balanced holistic view of what it means to build a great city that allows entrepreneurship and innovation to thrive rather than be stifled.

In order to attract the best talent from around the globe, the Victorian Government has built Melbourne into a city with the highest quality of life in the world. For the fourth year in a row, Melbourne was ranked as the best city in the world to live in by The Economist Intelligence Unit’s Global Livability Index. In fact, Melbourne scored perfectly in the areas of healthcare, education and infrastructure.

The Premier of Victoria, Dr. Denis Napthine, said the Victorian state capital offers an unparalleled lifestyle, underpinned by resilient economic credentials, world-class infrastructure, excellent health and education systems and progressive business regulation.

A decade in the making

Minister for Technology Gordon Rich-Phillips today officially launched the new domain name .melbourne

Minister for Technology Gordon Rich-Phillips today officially launched the new domain name .melbourne

Creating a world-class city does not happen overnight or even over a couple of years.

Successive Victorian governments have invested more than AUD$1.5 Billion over the last decade into infrastructure and projects to build up Melbourne into what it is today. This continuity in planning and policy has allowed the city to create a critical mass of high tech skills, capabilities and research for both local and international companies to benefit from.

As a result, Victoria boasts some very impressive results:

  • 91,300 people employed in ICT – approximately 31% of total Australian ICT industry employment
  • ICT companies operating in Victoria have gross annual revenues of $34.2 billion
  • Victorian headquartered ICT companies have annual revenues of $2.51 billion from overseas operations and exports of ICT equipment and services.
  • More than 50% of top 30 listed technology companies in Australia are based in Melbourne

Not resting on its laurels

Even with such great achievements, Victoria has not rested on its laurels. In an interview with The Honorable Gordon Rich Phillips, The Minister for Technology and Aviation, said the city will be successful when the tech sector is “self-sustaining and Melbourne is seen as the logical and obvious choice to invest in, in the Asia Pacific region.”

In 2011, the state unrolled ‘Victoria’s Technology Plan for the Future’ which carved out $85 Million to support and promote the ICT, Biotech and Nanotech industries.  As part of the plan, one initiative to help traditional companies become more tech savvy and productive is the Technology Voucher Program. Based on a competitive application process, traditional companies can earn a grant ranging from $10,000 to $250,000, which can be exchanged for access to facilities, goods, services or advice. For example, a manufacturing company could partner with a tech company to improve their production process or products itself.  This also helps young tech companies break into the industry and kick-start their adoption.

A push towards Big Data driven decisions

“Government traditionally does make good use of data, so we are getting it out there in the public domain,” said The Honorable Gordon Rich Phillips. This realization helped to spur the government to make public data accessible in order to speed up solutions and insights to advance society.

In 2011, the state government opened the $100 Million Victorian Life Sciences Computation Initiative (vlsci), a super computer facility used to solve ‘some of the biggest challenges facing the State’s health system and impacting on our quality of life’. Life and computer scientists use the facility to collaborate on research into major diseases including cancer.

As part of a national initiative, the Victorian government has contributed large amounts of data sets for public access. On data.gov.au, there are some 4,700 data sets available for people to download, manipulate and create useful analysis and products.

Getting more people into Science, Technology and Startups

Recently, the state government announced plans to invest $3 Million into programs to up-skill companies to become more tech-savvy and encourage more people to work in the tech sector, especially the young and mature-aged. A part of this effort has been a strong push to attract foreign tech firms to establish a presence in Victoria and open up jobs.

“In the last twelve months, I have put more work into helping scientists and researchers gain more business stills to pitch venture capitalists. Turning our research and development into commercially viable business is a challenge,” said The Honorable Gordon Rich Phillips.