Malcolm Turnbull’s Innovation Statement offers some good news for Australian innovation in Biotechnology. Turnbull announced the creation of a $200 million CSIRO Innovation Fund to support investments in startups. The biotech community welcomed the announcement that better positions Australia to compete on the international stage against the likes of Switzerland and the United States. Below, we outline what the statement addressed and the key takeaways for biotech.
What is Biotechnology?
Biotech refers to using living organism or their products to enhance or improve human health and our environment. You may be familiar with biotechnology’s subcategories including medical, industrial, agricultural, environmental and bioeconomy.
We have the intention and investment, but how do we as a nation encourage innovation in biotech? A prerequisite for any innovation is synergy between the government, education and industry. The government must then provide tax relief for startups, as well as a favourable regulatory environment to nurture research and allow room for troubleshooting or failure.
Turnbull further committed $84 million on Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) subjects in high schools, focusing on upgrading the digital skill set of teachers. Included in this $84 million is $13 million for women and STEM. The second phase is the funding committed to university research, totalling $127 million in the next four years to help publish research in academic journals. This will contribute to bridging the current gap between research at the university level and industry success.
Business Know How
Understanding how to run a business is an important pillar in creating a culture of innovation. Students need to marry the knowledge they acquired through their tertiary education with business know-how. Transitioning away from the traditional Biotechnology Research and Development (R&D) structure towards a pragmatic, business-centric model presents challenges that entrepreneurs will need to surmount.
Turnbull’s national agenda aims to connect investors with entrepreneurs. Incubators and accelerators that contribute to startup development and growth will receive $8 million in funding.
Focus on Australian Innovation
Wary entrepreneurs view the loud chatter around innovation and the “ideas boom” cautiously. During the dotcom era, many ideas that had high prospects of success failed due to the financial crisis. For example, Ventracor’s heart-assist pump failed despite being an innovative and necessary invention.
But innovation in Australia’s biotech has literally yielded fruit in the past facilitating the Granny Smith’s Apple creation, IVF embryo freezing, Gardasil Cervical Cancer Vaccine and Micro-Surgery to name but a few. With the government’s recently announced funding, we anticipate its future will continue to grow.
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