Innovation Summit aims to get beyond base camp

29/07/2016 - 11:17

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At yesterday's WA Innovation Summit, put together for new Innovation Minister Bill Marmion, 250 invited guests came up with plans on how best to spend the newly allocated $20 million of innovation funds. 

STAGE VIEW: Some of the 250 invited guests at yesterday's Innovation Summit

At yesterday's WA Innovation Summit, put together for new Innovation Minister Bill Marmion, 250 invited guests came up with plans on how best to spend the newly allocated $20 million of innovation funds.

The remit of the day was to ‘ensure that Western Australia is the destination of choice to innovate, invest and live’.

Various presentations and panel sessions pored over the damning statistics of Australia's low rate of commercialisation (compared to our trading partners) and a gaping hole in early state funding for startups (we spend far more per person betting on the Melbourne Cup every year than we do investing in new tech ventures).

Overall, despite some cycnicism that this might become another talkfest, there was a degree of optimism from attendees. One of the early panellists, Andy Lamb, from Atomic Sky, argued that time was ripe for action:

Andy Lamb

The structure of the day featured four main themes: (1) investment and infrastructure, (2) marketing and promotion of WA as a state of innovation, (3) culture and collaboration, and (4) talent and skills. Joining the 250 at the Pan Pacific in Perth were more than 500 people in regional areas, watching a live stream through Westlink.

Over the day, at various table discussion sessions and through the online tool GroupMap, 758 ideas and 150 action plans were submitted. The main ones were then voted on and brought forward for more analysis. 

Dave Newman, one of the organisers at Perth Morning Startup, a free meetup with more than 2,000 members, tweeted:

With the startup ecosystem now well developed, the main feeling of the room was that the state government should not trample on what had already been created, but should look to support existing co-working spaces, accelerators and programs, and the few dozen volunteers who keep these things going, mainly unpaid.

In the same week that StartupWA brought forward its long awaited 2016 report into WA's startup ecosystem (with 10 clear recommendations), there were plenty of ideas to thrash around.

Common ideas included side-car funding for angel investors, educating SMEs on innovation, opening up landing pads in South-East Asia and opening doors at state government for local innovative companies to sell their solutions. 

The feeling was that WA had a lot going for it. Our state was already very innovative, had a high degree of migrants (known for their 'get up and go'), was used to speculative investment (such as mining exploration) and was a great place to live and attract the brightest talent.

"Today was great," Innovate Australia CEO Peter Kasprzak said. "This is the first time we've seen the local government set something like this up, in order to formulate strategy. The style of the day was good, the workshopping, and in groups I was working with, everyone was contributing. I think now we will see action."

At the end of the Summit, the government CIO Giles Nunis explained that the next stage would be condense the ideas and action plans into a document that will be shared with the attendees for further discussion.

The end goal is a completed innovation strategy by October, and then a clear annual deliverables linked to the annual $5 million of funding (over the next four years).

The proof, as they say, will be in the pudding. Will this talkfest turn into a long awaited action fest? Many of the attendees were encouraged that the state government is listening. Now they are hoping for action, and only time will tell on that. 

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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