One bright idea that could transform innovation in Australia
Australia lacks a small business industrial research program (SBIR) like the United States, and I would argue it has been a vital ingredient for the innovation success in the US for three decades. My day job is advocating for the Cooperative Research Centres in Australia, but I think the number one thing we need is a system that fires up our Start-up/spinoff sector to a much greater degree.
The SBIR scheme in the States serves two purposes:
(!) it encourages spin off and start up companies (over half of all spinoffs in the States are spun out to access the scheme) and
(2) it is a procurement scheme for government, so the company has the first customer for its product or service lined up.
I've written about the scheme in more detail here: http://theconversation.com/one-bright-idea-that-could-transform-innovation-in-australia-43622
The other important aspect of the SBIR scheme in the US is that it is big. Between it and the STTR scheme, they fund nearly 60% of early seed capital, leaving the private VC sector to concentrate on its areas of interest.
SBIR achieves many of the things we need in Australia: a bigger VC pool; a more entrepreneurial culture at the university level to move ideas out; start-ups with a customer locked in and ventures that are addressing the national needs (because it forces government departments to articulate their innovation needs).