Australian innovators can be up there with the best but the industry needs to break through its risk averse-culture first, the country's new Assistant Minister for Innovation said.
Two days into his new role, Australia's youngest minister Wyatt Roy spoke with industry leaders at the Canberra Innovation Network about how they could tackle their "biggest challenge".
"It"s fear of failure and it's tall poppies, those are the two worst elements in our culture," he said.
"And that's such an easy thing to say, but the one fundamental agreement about how we're going to achieve success in this sector, is how we embrace that aspirational mindset."
Mr Roy also flagged the attraction of capital and talent, and greater co-operation between higher education, research, science and the private sector as key areas of focus in his new portfolio; keeping taxes down was critical, he said.
"Innovation is a product of an effective taxation system. We are in a global race to be in the front of an innovative pack. Every country around the world is competing to attract these new jobs, these innovation jobs and if we are a high-taxing nation, we put ourselves at the back of the pack."
He sees a market for Australian innovations in Asia and its booming middle class, and a "highly-connected" Australia-wide "ecosystem" of innovation. "We have to be uniquely Australian about this, and I don't think we should emulate Silicon Valley but I think that there's a lot we can learn from that."
Craig Davis, CEO of GRIFFIN Accelerator, said it was clear from the meeting that Mr Roy had engaged widely with the startup community.
"Definitely we could have quite a sophisticated and mature conversation wth him, which is what you want," he said. "We don't want to be political or anything but it's certainly very positive, we're definitely engaging with somebody who's done their research and knew the sector."
Dr Davis' "accelerator" is a three-month intensive program in Canberra where veteran entrepreneurs choose budding entrepreneurs to invest in and work with to get the latter's business going. Eleven teams have come through the program since it started 18 months ago.
"[The government] is attacking one issue that I do see as super important, which is the culture thing. Wyatt's been talking about the culture of – it's okay to innovate, it's okay to take risks, things don't always work, it's okay to be ambitious and make a real big difference," Dr Davis said.
"When you're being innovative and doing something new, you don't know what's going to happen because by definition its new. It's really risky, not everything's going to work out. That's a necessary part of being genuinely innovative."
Mr Roy said he was optimistic for the future of innovation in Australia.
"From a diplomatic sense we talk about ourselves as a middle power and I always think that's the weirdest thing, like who does that? And from a start-up view as well, we shouldn't think we're going to be a middle player we should think we're going to be the best."