Commercialisation Australia is an Australian Government initiative that assists researchers, entrepreneurs and innovative companies to convert intellectual property into successful commercial ventures.
The report Venturous Australia: building strength in innovation noted the need to improve the structures in place to support innovation in the Australian economy. Previous strategies and programs in the commercialisation space had taken more of a ‘one size fits all’ approach to the issues. The Government wanted a new and radical approach where assistance could be tailored to the individual needs of the participants, each at different stages along the commercialisation pathway.
The resulting Commercialisation Australia initiative is a key part of the Australian Government’s ten year innovation agenda as outlined in Powering Ideas: an innovative agenda for the 21st century. Responding to a critical need, Commercialisation Australia helps start-up companies and those new to commercialisation overcome the gap – often referred to as the ‘valley of death’ – between research and the creation of successful new products, processes and services.
Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research
In collaboration with
The development of Commercialisation Australia has been a highly collaborative exercise. The central agencies and several portfolio departments were represented on the Government Committee. The initiative is delivered by the Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research. The Innovation Division works in partnership with AusIndustry, the Department’s program delivery arm, and to deliver the program across Australia.
Commercialisation Australia opened to applications from 4 January 2010. The Commercialisation Australia Board was established in February 2010 and the CEO, Doron Ben-Meir, was appointed in April 2010.
Options Considered and Approach Taken
Commercialisation Australia was initially announced as the Commonwealth Commercialisation Institute in the 2009-10 Federal Budget. Unlike other Government initiatives the policy objective was set first, and the details of form and operation were developed following an extensive consultation with over 250 stakeholders.
A focus group was established in June 2009 to discuss the potential scope and role of Commercialisation Australia. The focus group met three times and included key stakeholders in the commercialisation landscape.
In late August 2009 a cross-Government Committee was set up to facilitate the development process. Unlike regular inter-departmental committees, the chair of the committee was not a public servant. Dr Laurie Hammond, an independent expert with a background in commercialisation, was appointed by the Department of the Treasury to Chair the committee.
The consultation process was conducted in two stages, termed by the Chair as ‘broad and shallow’ and ‘narrow and deep’. The first stage sought public comment via a Smartform questionnaire available on the Department’s website. The Department received over 210 responses. The second stage involved a series of roundtable discussions with five broad stakeholder groups – businesses, service providers, research commercialisation, capital providers and government. The roundtable discussions were chaired by Dr Laurie Hammond.
The consultations helped the Government Committee to understand the needs of each stakeholder group, and how they believed the new initiative should be structured to best achieve its objective. The consultations confirmed that the initiative needed to:
- enhance the existing national innovation landscape by working with and leveraging off existing systems, infrastructure, and players;
- be accessible to participants from public sector research organisations, private enterprise and individual inventors, who will be at different points along the commercialisation pathway;
- have flexibility of multiple entry points in recognition of the specific needs of participants from different sectors and at different stages of development;
- support multiple exit strategies (e.g. licensing, market entry, follow-on investment), to move away from the perception that commercialisation inevitably requires the formation of a company which seeks backing from financial investors;
- adopt a process of ‘fast failure’ whereby failing projects are terminated and funding can be reallocated to new projects;
- provide more than just funding, with also the support of a dedicated Case Manager to help a participant from point of entry to exit and access to a network of Volunteer Business Mentors;
- have decision-making and governance informed by individuals with real-world experience in commercialisation;
- collect regular data on participants against key performance indicators to provide a stronger evidence base for future reviews and policy development; and
- have capacity to undertake pilot programs to assess new methods of providing support for commercialisation.
Commercialisation Australia opened to applications from 4 January 2010. The policy development and program implementation process took seven months. Delays in establishing the Government Committee resulted in a contracted public consultation process of one month and received some criticism from stakeholders. The inclusion of a non-government chair greatly assisted the Department in managing stakeholder relationships and expectations.
Opening a program to the public close to the Christmas period presented several challenges for the Department. Creating awareness of the new initiative was difficult at this time. Several procurement and recruitment processes were delayed by this timing including the recruitment of a Chief Executive Officer (CEO).
Risk and compliance concerns have been significant barriers to program implementation, and gaining internal support for a new and “riskier” approach to program delivery has taken significant time and resources. For example, the establishment of a Volunteer Business Mentor network has been delayed as the Department has had to seek advice on issues around liability of the Commonwealth and requirements for professional indemnity insurance.
A large part of Commercialisation Australia’s success to date can be attributed to decision to include industry experts throughout the development and implementation process. This has ensured that the original policy intent has not been compromised by bureaucratic objectives. The CEO was recruited from the private sector and has extensive experience in the venture capital industry and commercialisation more generally. The CEO will shape the strategic direction and ensure the overall efficient and effective administration of Commercialisation Australia.
Addition details or information
Further information on Commercialisation Australia initiative is available on the website. Potential applicants are also able to contact the Commercialisation Australia Hotline on 12 22 56.