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‘Huge impact’: Investors push for JobKeeper windfall to be ploughed into startups

The JobKeeper miscalculation has prompted health tech investors to push for other support measures, including expanding Australia’s manufacturing capabilities, so the country can better export ideas in years to come.

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“Healthcare is an area of competitive advantage in Australia when you look at the broad range of products it covers. From a manufacturing potential point of view, that is huge,” said managing director of digital health commercialisation outfit ANDHealth, Bronwyn Le Grice.

In a speech to the National Press Club last week, Minister for Industry, Science and Technology Karen Andrews pointed to medtech, energy and pharmaceuticals as key areas for local manufacturing in years to come.

“A developed advanced manufacturing capability is an enabler for all of these sectors,” she said.

Ms Le Grice said given the government had already expressed interest in this area, this was a prime opportunity to direct funds towards supporting research-intensive businesses.

“We need to look not just at existing products but also the products of the future.”

Mr Bassat said it must be recognised that even though the cost of JobKeeper appeared set to come in tens of billions of dollars below expectations, the government would have to balance additional spending against “incurring too much debt”.

Early stage investor Steve Baxter said while the government could do things like bring forward research and development grants to help with cashflow, startups did not need additional cash support.

“I just don’t believe tech needs it — the good businesses will find investors and there is money out there,” he said.

Mr Baxter said he was “not a huge fan of extra spending” so was cautious about taking on more national debt that necessary.

“Tech companies are doing better than traditional businesses.”

Director of entrepreneurship at University of Technology Sydney, Murray Hurps, said now was the time to move beyond survival mode and consider policies that would encourage the creation of new startups after the pandemic.

“I think [the] government has done a wonderful job of intervening to keep a lot of our existing companies and jobs in place. The next logical step is to start thinking about how we can stimulate the creation of new Australian companies, and ideally the kind of companies that can grow quickly and accelerate our recovery,” he said.

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