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Whatever happened to the Innovation Agenda?

I spent some time last week with our Australian businesses which coincided with the release of the government’s budget.

Listening to the budget sent me thinking back in time to 2013, when we launched the Talent Unleashed Awards. The awards were our effort to support and encourage innovation within the start-up sector, which I felt was languishing and falling behind many other nations around the world. Australia back in 2013 was heavily dependent on royalties from the mining and resource sector and a booming housing market.

So it was with great encouragement in 2015, that we welcomed the launch of the Innovation Agenda, pledging over $1billion of investment towards initiatives to support start-ups and various research projects. It seemed like a breakthrough moment but in truth, very little appeared to happen before it seem to disappear completely.

Fast forward to April 2019, and the business community is disappointingly informed of a range of regressive policies, including R&D cutbacks and clawbacks, an overly conservative approach to skilled migration and punitive tax reform – the very life blood of the start-up sector. We have seen approximately $4billion of cuts to R & D incentives over the last two budgets. This is against a backdrop of resurgent commodity prices and buoyant performances from our mining and resource giants as we seem to be heading back to a two speed economy.

Alas, it feels like we have returned to 2013 and a country that is not prepared to be bold and invest in the economies and ideas that will shape tomorrow’s society.

Now, I’m well aware that it is a time of political positioning in Australia, with an election imminent, but whoever forms the next government over the coming weeks needs to put innovation and research back into mainstream politics. We are particularly focused on this at Talent because we reinvest a significant proportion of our profits into innovation. In comparison to the US and Europe, Australia has an uncluttered political landscape and a healthy economy. We are blessed with exceptional academic and research institutions and world class scientists and engineers. If Australia can’t seize the moment now, it probably never can!