• Minister for industry and science Ed Husic launched the Innovation Growth Program at the National Innovation Policy Forum. Image: Cooperative Research Australia
    Minister for industry and science Ed Husic launched the Innovation Growth Program at the National Innovation Policy Forum. Image: Cooperative Research Australia

The $392 million Industry Growth Program is now open, launched by minister for industry and science Ed Husic at the National Innovation Policy Forum in Canberra.

The Industry Growth Program was first announced in the 2023-24 Budget, replacing the Entrepreneur’s Program. 

The National Innovation Policy Forum, organised by Cooperative Research Australia, 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.

In a keynote address, Husic called for businesses to look for growth into international markets, and acknowledged the impact policy had in supporting business innovation. 

“Start-ups and SMEs are the ideas factory of our economy, but sometimes just having a great idea isn’t enough. Bridging that ‘valley of death’ and bearing the cost of turning a good idea into a great product has been a bridge too far for many.

“Australian businesses are innovative and are strong adopters of technologies and business processes. However, few innovate in ways that are new to the world. It is this type of innovation that will support our efforts to transform and diversify our industry and build our economic complexity,” said Husic.

Innovation leaders present at the forum showed their support for scale-up opportunities for small businesses. 

Australia’s chief scientist Dr Cathy Foley said Australia had a scale-up problem, not a start-up problem.

“Medium-sized businesses, key to innovation, are underrepresented and struggling. By international comparisons, Australia’s industry structure is heavily skewed to micro businesses,” said Foley.

Foley is the deputy chair of the Industry Innovation and Science Australia Board (ISSA), which released its timely Barriers to collaboration and commercialisation report, revealing businesses in Australia often faced barriers in scaling up, with 94 per cent of businesses employing fewer than ten people. This compares to 62 to 67 per cent in Germany, Canada and the United States.

The report recommends that the government identify businesses with the need and risk appetite to innovate and deliver novel products and services, and details ways Australia can take steps to translate its world class research performance into commercialisation outcomes.

“Our domestic market in Australia is small, and that’s why our businesses stay small,” said Foley.

The Industry Growth Program includes:

  • The delivery of advisory services by a national network of expert business growth and commercialisation advisers that will provide guidance on seeking investment, market testing, business models, and networking; and
  • the delivery of matched grant funding ranging from $50 000 to $5 million to eligible startups and innovative SMEs.

Husic said scaling businesses was a long term challenge for Australia’s economy. 

“The Industry Growth Program is designed to commercialise ideas and build stronger Australian businesses to put them on a pathway for potential support by the National Reconstruction Fund,” said Husic.

Grant funding for the Innovation Growth Program opens in early 2024.

The full report from Industry Innovation and Science Australia can be accessed here.

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