The Western Australian government has set aside $20 million for an innovation package in its state budget, delivered by Treasurer Mike Nahan yesterday.
Nahan called the budget a “budget for the times” as he revealed that the state’s deficit would almost double to $3.9 billion next year. As such, like federal treasurer Scott Morrison, Nahan’s too is aiming for jobs and growth, with a focus on growth in small business and innovation.
He said that while the state’s economic growth will continue to be supported by the resources sector, “we have long recognised that other sectors are strategically important in terms of growth in employment opportunities and developing the state’s economic base.”
The government will look to help the state’s businesses to leverage off the skills developed in the mining, oil, and gas sectors, with WA Premier and Science Minister Colin Barnett saying that the government does not want to “indulge in a scatter-gun approach” to its investment in innovation.
The $20 million innovation package, to be spent across four years, adds to the existing $30 million in funding for innovation across various areas, with Barnett pointing to the money being spent on shipbuilding and science and various medical research institutes.
Barnett said the extra funding will go towards helping government departments work with relevant industries to “support the researchers, innovators and startup businesses which have the greatest potential to strengthen, broaden and build the Western Australian economy.”
The government will also be spending $30 million across four years to secure major events within the state, and help the Perth Convention Bureau attract more conventions.
StartupWA welcomed the fresh funding, stating that the cash will go towards helping entrepreneurs and startups diversify the WA economy and create more jobs.
Justin Strharsky, director of StartupWA, said, “We have a significant challenge ahead of us to diversify and add resilience to our state economy. This allocation of funds will help start to align government, industry, research institutions, and the startup community towards that goal.”
StartupWA last December released a preliminary report on the state’s startup ecosystem that found the impact of digital and internet technologies on Western Australia’s economy could be over $76 billion per year by 2025, or 25 percent of gross state product.
However, the report classed the state’s early stage technology industry as “still in its infancy, with a few breakout successes that have managed to overcome regional isolation and sparse support.”
The government’s focus on leveraging WA’s skills and successes in the resources sector also echoes a key point made in the report, which found that the sector ranks as the sixth most popular for the state’s startups. With WA investment in research and development in mining reaching $2.43 billion in 2015, there are significant opportunities for startups to take advantage of activity in the sector.
Image: Mike Nahan. Source: Twitter.