Wednesday, August 21

International Grant Landscape: How do we compare to the rest of the world (it’s difficult to tell )?

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Matt Trustrum, an early stage startup advisor and founder coach with more than 15 years experience in the tech scene, looks at the current start of R&D grants in Australia and how we compare to the rest of the world. To find out more about Matt you can connect with him on Linkedin.
Whilst Australia has one of the best R&D grant systems in the world, with Australia becoming so expensive to live in (particularly Sydney/ Melbourne) and one of the main hindrances / deterrents for founders to starting a company (as mentioned in the latest Startup Muster Report), that of lack of a stable income, mortgage, child day care costs (we have all met many highly paid and start up parent-repreneurs experiencing all forms of financial stress here ) etc it would be interesting to enquire how our additional government grant & soft money landscape, compares to other countries.
I’ve been in the Sweden this week working with founders, home to a far more mature and punching way above it’s weight, start up ecosystem, ( in terms of exits for its small population), which has been nurtured for over 20 years, with a plethora of numerous funding options, R&D, government agency grants, soft money & non recourse loans. Granted ( pardon the pun ) the additional closeness to European VC.
Just last night over a burger with a founder in Stockholm who was starting a new big data AG-tech tool for farming irrigation systems, he was openly (humble) bragging about how easy it was for founders in Stockholm to get access to such capital, with zero equity dilution. He was confident of securing support efficiently and quickly. I’ve heard & observed similar stories for far less sophisticated tech too.
One also mentioning the opportunity to be able to leave your real job for one whole year to work on a start up whilst the company is obliged to hold open your position for twelve months in case the venture fails. Nice incentive, again this may encourage the wrong behaviours but a nice incentive nonetheless.
One also only has to look at the EU Horizon 2020 project, the biggest EU Research and Innovation programme ever with nearly €80 billion of funding available over 7 years (2014 to 2020) – in addition to the private investment that this money will attract – to observe how seriously Europe is considering the opportunities & the measures they are taking.
Then take at look at France’s recent emerging scene funded through a myriad of grants and the massive hub they have opened.
You can also consider the innovative and attractive method some countries are employing to lure start ups from overseas including:
  • Singapore – low rates of tax
  • (Start up) Chile –
  • Estonia ( world first digital Entreprener visa )
  • Denmark ( access to social welfare, hospitals etc for international Entrepreneurs)
  • UK ( tax incentives etc etc etc )
With such an expensive cost of general living here are we really doing enough to counter act this and make it easier for W-antrepreneurs to take the leap ( NOT that I’m suggesting everyone should do so)?
Clearly there is no one silver bullet for this quandary, brain drain, talent shortage, clustering, small VC & angel scene etc also contribute.
However if we can truly stand out on the world stage not just with R&D but additional, attractive & transparent ( many founders I talk to in Australia find this area rather opaque) incentives*, grant, soft money solutions etc then maybe we can really move the needle!
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