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COVID-19 affected innovation sector to be supported by AU$800,000

The Innovation and ICT Minister announced that the McGowan Government is advancing up to $800,000 from the $16.7 million New Industries Fund (NIF) to support start‑ups and small and medium enterprises (SMEs) impacted by COVID-19.

The State Government recognises that Western Australia’s innovation sector has been impacted by COVID-19, with start-ups and entrepreneurs facing problems with cash flow, potential data breaches, supply chain integrity and changed business models.

The $16.7 million New Industries Fund was established to support and accelerate new and emerging businesses to diversify the Western Australian economy and create new WA jobs.

The $800,000 package from the New Industries Fund consists of the following support programs:

  1. Innovation Vouchers Program: An additional $300,000 to support 16 more Innovation Vouchers, worth up to $20,000 each, to start-ups and SMEs. This is in addition to the existing $400,000 allocated for the 2020 program, bringing the total value to $700,000. The total 36 Innovation Voucher grants will support SMEs to access professional skills, services or knowledge to advance their ideas and commercial activities.
  2. WA Data Science Innovation Hub and the AustCyber WA Innovation Hub: $400,000 funding to help build the hubs’ capacity to advise start-ups and SMEs on cybersecurity and the use of data science for business development, including in regional areas.
  3. X-TEND WA Program: $100,000 funding for education and mentoring programs, which will be delivered by existing X-TEND WA program recipients. This will help boost entrepreneurs and innovative projects that support diversity and promote inclusion in the innovation community. This will also support WA businesses that wish to pivot their business model.

The Innovation and ICT Minister stated, “Our innovation community have told us they most need business advice and mentoring to help guide them through the COVID-19 recovery period. The extra funding for business education programs and hubs will be a big help to retain jobs, especially with its focus on cybersecurity and diversity and inclusion.”

He added that extra funding for the data science and cyber innovation hubs will build their capacity to support organisations and businesses who need guidance on best-practice to safely deliver online products and services – an area seeing huge increases in demand during the pandemic.

Helping innovative start-ups and SMEs during the State’s economic recovery period is critical to both preserving existing jobs while ensuring these organisations are well-positioned to create new viable businesses and as a result; additional jobs.

Pushing the digital economy

On 23 March 2020, the Australian and Singaporean Governments announced the conclusion of negotiations on the Australia-Singapore Digital Economy Agreement (DEA).

The DEA will add a new chapter to the existing Singapore-Australia Free Trade Agreement, and aims to:

  • Prevent unnecessary restrictions on the transfer and storage of data between Australia and Singapore;
  • Improve protections for source code, so that businesses are not forced to disclose or transfer their product source code as a condition of import, distribution, sale or use of the product;
  • Ensure that e-invoicing and e-payment frameworks are implemented in a compatible way based on international frameworks;
  • Improve enforcement and compliance provisions to support online consumer protection and personal information protection, and discourage spam;
  • Protect citizens from harmful online content;
  • Improve accessibility of publicly available, anonymised government information; and
  • Enhance transparency between the two countries to facilitate individuals and businesses seeking to trade and invest in Singapore.

The final DEA will undergo a legal review by both countries before the signing and ratification of the document. The Australian government has since indicated that it wishes to replicate the DEA in other markets.

Pushing the digital economy as well as helping local SMEs and firms digitalise their operations will be key if they are to survive the COVID-19 pandemic and life in a post-COVID world.

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