Western Australia’s state development and finance minister Bill Marmion will take on a new innovation portfolio and $20 million to support initiatives over the next four years.
The so-called “innovation package” consists of a modest $5 million in funding a year that is to be allocated to making “Western Australia a regional and global innovation centre and create new jobs”.
The announcement was made at a Cisco innovation centre located at Curtin University.
It was largely hidden in the state budget handed down last week but promoted in a weekend announcement by the government.
"This extra $20 million will expand WA's already dynamic tech sector and position it to capitalise on our State's strong entrepreneurial credentials in Australia, Asia and around the world,” Premier and science minister Colin Barnett said.
"The package aims to ensure WA's brand becomes synonymous with innovation, creativity and digital technology. It will broaden the economy, create jobs and stimulate investment.
"We will look to Asia, with an early focus on Singapore, using our trade, business and education linkages to help open a regional gateway for investment in WA.”
Barnett said that the package would “consolidate and build on a number of initiatives in innovation already occurring across government”.
It was partially aimed at reviving the state’s economic fortunes which have taken a hit as the mining industry has moved out of a recent boom period.
Marmion has been tasked with driving a wide-range of initiatives that will begin with convening an “innovation summit”.
"The summit will bring together leaders from WA's business, start-up, community and public sectors to build our innovation strategy to foster new enterprises, concept commercialisation and job creation," Marmion said.
He also plans to create a new innovation portal that is designed to act as a “one-stop shop to connect innovators, incubators, mentors and investors.”
Another initiative is the Start IT Up Challenge, which will offer $100,000 in prize money to “innovators to use government data to improve the way the public sector delivers services to West Australians”.
"It builds on the open data policy launched last year, which makes large amounts of government data available for public use and technology development,” Marmion said.
— Kevin Bloch (@KevinBloch) May 14, 2016
StartupWA welcomed the state-level innovation focus and funding.
“We have a significant challenge ahead of us to diversify and add resilience to our state economy,” StartupWA director Justin Strharsky said.
“This allocation of funds will help start to align government, industry, research institutions, and the startup community towards that goal.”
Strharsky said that StartupWA would publish a ‘WA Startup Ecosystem Report 2016’ at the end of May.
“We look forward to the government using the report and its recommendations to make informed decisions about the detailed allocation of these new funds,” he said.