10th February, 2016
While attention in early February was focused on rumoured changes to the GST, superannuation concessions and negative gearing rules, the focus for business remains on the government’s commitment to encouraging innovation.
Declaring that the Australia of the future has to be a nation that is agile, innovative, and creative, the Prime Minister marked-out innovation as a signature policy area to draw a line between his government and that of his predecessor.
While the rapid rate of technological and social change led media coverage of the government’s program to focus on what these policies offer technology start-ups and ‘disruptive’ businesses, the innovation agenda in fact offers significant opportunities for a wide range of businesses, both big and small, mainstream and disruptive.
The turn to innovation not only looks toward future opportunity, but also to Australia’s history of world-leading innovations.
Many of the things we use in our everyday lives, such as plastic spectacle lenses, solar hot water systems, ultrasound scanners, baby safety capsules, and plastic banknotes, were developed in Australia after World War II.
Recognising that successful innovation needs more than just good ideas, the Turnbull government introduced a number of measures aimed at making tax laws more investment-friendly, connecting entrepreneurs to innovation hotspots around the world, and opening up government-held data to entrepreneurs for use when creating new products and services.
Innovative investment needs tax rules which encourage people to ‘have a go,’ and entrepreneurs who enter into new businesses with similar assets and customers will be able to more easily use prior year tax losses to offset against future profits.
Entrepreneurs will also have the option to bring the tax life of knowledge-based assets they acquire — such as patents and copyrights — in line with the economic life of the asset, to ensure they do not lose out on the depreciation benefits of these assets over time.
World-changing ideas, or indeed the best ways to bring them to market, may emerge anywhere. As a result, the government will establish five ‘landing pads’ in the leading global innovation hotspots, Silicon Valley and Tel Aviv, as well as three further locations.
These ‘landing pads’ will be physical premises from which market-ready Australian start-ups will be able to collaborate with the world’s leading innovators, mentors and investors.
Successful innovation does not require only good ideas, but access to data which allows these ideas to be robustly tested on the way to becoming new products and services. Consequently, the government will release more non-sensitive public data for private sector innovation, without compromising on security and privacy standards.
Other areas the innovation agenda touched on included increasing collaboration between businesses and researchers, driving innovation in schools, and encouraging the immigration of entrepreneurs and highly-skilled science and technology students.
Small to medium businesses right across the spectrum from startup to established businesses, mainstream players and disruptors would benefit from looking at the specific incentives and benefits innovation agenda offers them, whether it is access to capital, intellectual property, or improving cashflow to grow faster.
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