The Australian: Roy, Husic vow bipartisan approach to innovation

The Australian: Roy, Husic vow bipartisan approach to innovation

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David Swan


Assistant Innovation Minister Wyatt Roy says he’s ready for a new era of bipartisanship on start-ups and innovation, despite not inviting newly minted shadow parliamentary secretary for start-ups Ed Husic to the government’s recently held Policy Hackathon in Sydney.

Mr Roy, who masterminded the all-day event involving 22 senior public servants and more than 100 members of the technology and innovation community, said bipartisanship was “very important” to the new government’s innovation agenda but said there should be competitive tension around the ideas and implementation, with a focus around shared objectives between the major parties.

“I think that there’s great opportunity for bipartisanship here,” he told The Australian.

“We are the government, we are the ones that have to actually do this, but I think the public are looking to us to work as collaborative policymakers, not as partisan politicians, and this is a great space to be doing that.

“One of the first calls that I made, when I announced I was going to be appointed the assistant minister, was to Ed Husic, and to Terri Butler, people who I think I can work very well with on the other side.”

Mr Husic, who was appointed shadow parliamentary secretary of digital innovation and start-ups last week, told The Australian he did not get an invite but was not miffed.

“For the Coalition, this was them fast-tracking their consultation with the start-up community,” he said. “And that was their space to be in, that was their project they needed to undertake. I really didn’t have my nose out of joint because I wasn’t invited.”

Mr Husic said it was extremely important for both parties to be focused on the policy frameworks that would boost the local start-up ecosystem, given the relative low level of start-up formation in Australia. “We need to really get stronger growth at that entry level, because it’s from there we’re going to get our larger firms to evolve,” he said.

Mr Husic said while he had had a focus on the start-up sector for some time, having the Coalition focus on it now meant that an area that was once considered niche had moved into the centre stage of policy debate, a “good thing for everybody”.

“Having said that, I think people are very jaded and cautious about the hyper-competitiveness that existed between the parties,” he said. “They don’t want to see that enter into this space, because they recognise we’ve got a short space of time to work together and we need to be productive, work strongly, come up with ideas and promote the sector’s broader interests.”

Mr Roy said for him the main driver behind the event, which culminated in a list of 10 actionable innovation policy recommendations to government, was to encourage dialogue between public service workers and entrepreneurs, some of whom would have never met a public sector worker before Saturday.

Futurist and inventor Mark Pesce, who was a member of one of the winning teams, said the event surprised him with a list of attendees he said were smart and effective, along with members of the public sector who provided a “reservoir of public sector knowledge”, were genuinely keen on engagement and able to relay policy implementation horror stories.

“No one was being asked to take a political position when they walked in on Saturday,” Mr Pesce said. “But you know what would be more interesting is if you go to a Liberal conference or Labor conference and do a hackathon in those contexts. They do have a great deal of freedom within the bounds of their parties. I would love to see that, or a City of Sydney hackathon around some of our planning issues. It’s not an answer for everything but it’s an interesting approach.

“And if it’s an interesting approach just add it to the list.”

The winning pitches of the event were Erin Watson-Lynn’s Digital Innovation Creative Entrepreneurial Kids (DICEKids), a program for schoolchildren to help sow the seeds of entrepreneurship, and Nicola Hazel’s NEWS 2 Entrepreneur accelerator, which would add a start-up option to the government’s New Enterprise Investment Scheme.

DICEKids will aim at implementing a “Lemonade Day” in schools so that primary school children can run a lemonade stand and have their first taste of entrepreneurship. Venture capitalist and Policy Hack judge Steve Baxter has confirmed his interest in backing the plan, as has CSIRO chief executive Larry Marshall.

Other ideas included the establishment of Australian start-up launch pads in satellite cities like San Francisco in New York, and a “female rockstar” initiative to help boost the number of female founders and investors.

Mr Roy said the hackathon would culminate in a report from peak body StartupAUS, which would produce an outcomes report to present to members of the government

Lowy Institute for International Policy: The Y20 2015: The G20 youth perspective (Lowy Institute for International Policy, G20 Monitor No 18)

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