The Queensland government has appointed Mark Sowerby as its first “chief entrepreneur” in the hope he can attract investor attention to the state’s start-ups.
Sowerby is best known as the founder of ASX-listed private equity firm Blue Sky Alternative Investments, and had shocked investors a week ago when he said he would step down from September 30.
However, it has now become clear where Sowerby will be spending his time post-Blue Sky, applying his skills in attracting investment to growing Queensland’s capital in the commercialisation space.
As chief entrepreneur, Sowerby will spend the next year sitting under the Advance Queensland umbrella, which is home to a suite of government programs designed to drive innovation and knowledge-based jobs growth in the state.
“My Advance Queensland agenda isn’t just about bolstering our world-class research stocks, it’s about translating those ideas into commercial businesses,” Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said.
“Mark Sowerby is well known in the investment community for identifying opportunities and seeing them commercialised.
“This appointment will help Queensland attract more venture capital and turn ideas into businesses and jobs.”
An evaluation panel commissioned by the Queensland Government selected Sowerby “from a field of top flight candidates”, the government said.
They were particularly attracted to Sowerby’s skills in harnessing venture capital to deliver returns to investors – “this is something that Queensland with its growing start-up ecosystem can really benefit from.”
Part of the chief entrepreneur’s role is also, then, to sell Queensland’s start-up and knowledge credentials to the world.
“[Sowerby] will energise Queensland’s startup sector, build collaboration to support business innovation, promote entrepreneurship and advocate for Queensland both nationally and internationally,” Minister for Innovation, Science and the Digital Economy, Leeanne Enoch said.
“[He] will cement Queensland’s reputation as a global innovation hotspot, encouraging start-up formation here in Queensland.”
The Office of the Queensland chief entrepreneur is a $1.5 million, two-year initiative funded under the $24 million Start-up Queensland program, part of the Advance Queensland business investment attraction package.
The chief entrepreneur is but one avenue the state government is using to explore funding options for innovative businesses in the state.
The government has also set aside $40 million to create an early stage investment fund that will co-invest in companies that are on a path to commercialisation.
It is presently taking applications from early stage companies, and is able to provide co-investment of between $125,000 and $2.5 million based on its charter.