How the QLD Govt is measuring the health of start-up innovation

Queensland Government Lea Diffey

An inability to properly gauge the health of Queensland’s innovation ecosystem, particularly around start-up investments, can be drastically improved through intelligence-gathering ‘data projects’ led by the Innovation department, enabling the QLD Government to properly target policies and programs to hypercharge the state’s start-up sector, says Lea Diffey, deputy director-general, innovation, at the Department of Tourism, Innovation and Sport.

“The state of innovation is something I want to tell you about, and it’s really for your policy and programs areas,” Diffey told FST Government Queensland 2023 delegates in Brisbane today.

“It is very hard to measure what the innovation ecosystem is as there are so many bits to it, so we’re trying to make sure that we’ve got data projects, [that are able to] provide us with the intelligence you need to make the case to your people, whether it would be through policies, programs or strategies.”

Diffey stated that, in 2020, Queensland was home to approximately 12,700 start-ups in knowledge-intensive industries the highest proportion in the country. However, knowledge workers represented only 40 per cent of the state’s total workforce, which was lower than the rest of Australia.

At the same time, the Government was working to improve the venture capital environment in the state, which she argued was “not great”.

“We want more companies starting here and growing here, [and] having customers here. [We know that] it is not a great environment in Queensland for that,” she said.

According to Queensland’s most recent State of Innovation report, almost a quarter of total investments in Australia was coming to the state. However, Duffy argued: “It should be more!”.

“We are working with QIC in the Queensland Treasury and there are a few funds in place.”

“There is the Early Acceleration Fund and the Backing Business Investment Fund, and late last year [the Government] announced the Venture Capital Development Fund.”

The deputy director-general of innovation also revealed that the state Government was working on changing some settings to boost capital investment in and facilitate deals for the state’s start-up sector, including a reworked procurement process.

“We are [currently] working with the Department of Energy and Public Works to change the procurement requirements for start-ups.

“We’re not just going to say ‘Okay, you need to procure from start-ups’, but we are trying to make it easy and we’re going to train start-ups on how to work with the Government.”

Diffey also noted that recent events within Queensland’s start-up community indicated that they were “desperate to partner with government”.

“They want to sell to us, of course they do. But there are so many opportunities and challenges that they can help us solve [as well].”