At a time when pioneering US, UK and European science entrepreneurs are pandemic-proofing the world, Australia’s science start-ups are floundering – with none featuring in the nation’s current top 25 start-up lists.
New Menzies Foundation research released today reveals how Australia’s fractured approach to supporting science start-ups is stopping new discoveries reaching market and potentially changing the world.
The study, “Spinning out: supporting science start-ups in Australia”, followed the experiences of local scientists currently aiming to commercialise their research and was launched today on behalf of the Menzies Foundation by Tony Surtees, chair of the Australian Government’s Entrepreneurs’ Programme Committee.
The research found the barriers to commercialisation were so severe for science start-ups when compared to other business types, that many gave up at the first stage of trying to commercialise their discovery. Drawn-out Intellectual Property (IP) negotiations with research institutions, coupled with unfavourable licensing terms for investors, were among key barriers identified.
Menzies Foundation CEO Liz Gilles said there is no doubt that Australia has the scientific talent to become an innovation powerhouse. “However, this new research shows us that the current path to commercialisation is simply too difficult for many,” she said.
The “publish or peril” success measure that research institutions place on their scientists saw many potential entrepreneurs reluctant to break away from academia, fearing there would be no pathway back in, should their venture fail.
The report included a range of practical recommendations for research institutions, government and investors to help build a pipeline of successful Australian science start-ups. It also outlined the critical role of specialist start-up accelerators in driving science innovations to market.
To kick-start the journey toward science start-up success, the Menzies Foundation today officially launched its Menzies Science Entrepreneur Program, in partnership with specialist science accelerator, MedTech Actuator. Twelve high potential scientists will share in $240,000 worth of support as the first two MedTech Actuator Menzies Fellows and first 10 Scholars.
“The Menzies Science Entrepreneur Program is a vital first step toward breaking down those barriers and beginning a wholesale shift in the way that we as a nation support our scientists to succeed commercially – because when they do, the entire world could benefit – as we are seeing right now,” Liz said.
MedTech Actuator CEO, Dr Buzz Palmer agreed. “We are excited to be partnering with the Menzies Foundation at this crucial time for science entrepreneurship in Australia. We know that by coming together we can amplify our impact and really set Australia on a trajectory toward scientific commercialisation success.”