With the promise of “Bringing Big Ideas to Life”, the NSW Government’s Innovation Strategy, released on 30 November 2016, may unlock fresh opportunities for businesses, entrepreneurs and start-ups in the technology and innovation spaces. Following on from last year’s regional perspective on the Commonwealth Government’s “Ideas Boom” , James Stevenson and Ryan Gray provide their insights into the State’s new innovation agenda.

The NSW Government’s Innovation Strategy seeks to foster a “culture of innovation” as a key driver for growth. The recent renewed focus on “ideas” at both the Commonwealth and State levels is intended to help start-ups and entrepreneurs to prosper and compete in regional, national and international marketplaces.

What is it?

The State Government’s Innovation Strategy is the result of a lengthy process of consultation with NSW “innovators” in 2016, the purpose of which was to develop a platform for increased innovation across the State. From a policy perspective, this agenda is geared toward economic stimulation and enhancing the State’s ability to “tackle complex economic, environmental and social challenges”.

What are the key initiatives?

Four key initiatives are advanced under the Strategy:

  1. The Government will take a leadership role in the growth of NSW innovation. This represents a focus on increased and more effective collaboration between the public and private sector. To that end, a number of initiatives have been announced, including:
  • An online “Innovation Concierge” service. The service provides a platform to ask government-related queries about innovation and to submit innovation proposals.
  • The “Innovation Launch” program, which provides seed funding of up to $150,000 for ideas that are recognised as having potential public benefit (subject to certain assessment criteria). The aim is to support innovators in developing solutions to public challenges.
  • “Regulatory Sandboxes”. The Government is seeking feedback as to the regulatory red tape faced by innovators when trying to test their ideas and business models. From these submissions, the Government will decide a regulatory “theme” (e.g. agtech, blockchain, health, energy or social technology) and then take applications for solutions to be tested in the first sandbox program.
  1. Fostering Research & Development through initiatives such as the expansion of the TechVouchers scheme and “Universities Connect” (a new approach to university/government relationship management).
  1. The development of skills and education in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), including the establishment of a “NSW STEM Foundation” and implementing the “Jobs for the Future Strategy”.
  1. Partnering with local governments to facilitate entrepreneurship by developing new spaces, events and market opportunities. The Government has also set aside funding for direct grants to start-ups via Jobs for NSW.

Opportunities for regional entrepreneurs

Only time will tell if the NSW Innovation Strategy will deliver on its promises to stimulate opportunities for the state’s innovative thinkers, and for those who seek to collaborate with them or invest in their ideas. The strategy is only the starting point and we would hope that more initiatives will follow as the strategy matures.

Notably, most of the current initiatives are (on their face) “Sydney-focused” and there is no specific strategy to boost regional innovators. However, the strategy does provide a platform from which local and regional entrepreneurs can (and should) take advantage of the Government’s prioritisation of innovation in NSW.