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New Zealand and Australia: World’s Top Countries to Start a Business

Global Innovation Index 2012, Australian Government, start-up, business

Australian and New Zealand entrepreneurs are well placed after a study revealed the two countries as the top nations for ease of starting a business.

The Global Innovation Index study found that New Zealand and Australia are the two best places to start a business.

New Zealand claims number one ranking, scoring a perfect 100, with Australia trailing close behind with 99.2. Both countries beat the US, UK and Singapore, among other notable nations.

The report ranks 141 countries / economies on the basis of their innovation capabilities and results, looking at the various procedures, timeframes and costs associated with starting a business.

The study confirms that the Australian start-up sector is a thriving industry with countless initiatives being hatched and developed across the country. But, tough economic climates mean that small business owners are calling for intensified efforts from the Australian Government, to foster and encourage these business ventures that are vital to our national economy.

Ivan Lim, founder and managing director of custom tailor company Vinspi, says he wants to see more attention given to tech start-ups.

“I think the Australian Government needs to dedicate more attention to the tech start-up sector and recognise it as being a big part of this country’s economy over the next few decades,” he says.

“We know how important mining is but the truth is there are some incredibly smart and talented people in the Australian start-up scene who are building great businesses that could be the future leading lights for this country.

“There are already various initiatives from the Government like the Commercialisation Australia grant, which is great, but the next steps should be around getting more immersed in the space and actively finding new ways to support the industry.”

Currently, the interests of the Australian Government include the R&D Tax Incentive, Commercialisation Australia, Enterprise Connect, AusIndustry venture capital programs, as well as small business initiatives such as BusinessGov that encourages Australian entrepreneurs to innovate by providing access to information, advice, networks and funding.

Minister for Industry and Innovation, Greg Combet, says the Federal Government is proud of its policies to support Australian start-ups.

“The Federal Government plays many roles in supporting entrepreneurs. From education and skills development through innovation and commercialisation funding to a range of face-to-face, phone and online advisory services,” he says.

“Since 2007, the Government has increased annual spending on science, research and innovation by 35 percent. We recognised that investment in innovation remains crucial to our long-term success, even through the GFC and global financial uncertainty.

“In 2009, the Government released its innovation policy “Powering Ideas”, and later this year we’ll release an Industry and Innovation Policy Statement to ensure that we stay competitive globally.”

When you compare overseas markets like the US or UK, and how the local governments back the entrepreneurial sector, we’ve still got a long way to go.

Lim looks to the US and Singapore as shining examples for start-ups.

“Silicon Valley in the US has plenty of money going around for investors to give promising start-ups the funding they need. The industry there continues to grow because those who’ve been funded before and made their money put back into the eco-system to support the next generation of start-ups,” he says.

“Closer to home, Singapore is definitely making steps in the right direction. There are a number of grants that give significant amounts of funding to start-ups that have raised money and are willing to relocate to Singapore. The Government is making a concerted effort to create a “Silicon Valley of Asia” which is exciting. The money being pumped into the sector will help support great ideas in becoming a reality.”

While living in the UK recently, I worked for a charity organisation, Enterprise UK, who ran Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW).

The week-long event celebrates innovation and economic growth in the start-up environment. There are more than 118 countries that take part in promoting entrepreneurial activity, connecting participants to potential collaborators, mentors and investors.

Local, state and federal governments in the UK heavily back the initiative.  Former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown first launched the event in 2008, with participation and support now sought from presidents and prime ministers all over the world. Yet there is little attention given to this venture in Australia.

GEW is also heavily marketed to the UK’s general public, through media relations and strong marketing. It’s a way of generating interest in the area, and also inspiring more activity.

Lim says exposure is a vital element.

“I’d like to see the start-up industry continue to grow with increased exposure to the general public,” he says.

“Entrepreneurship and tech start-ups are not for everyone but it’s something that everyone should get a chance to explore. It would be great if more people get exposed to start-ups because this increases the talent pool and quality businesses that rise up.”

It’s important that the Federal Government takes a stronger approach to advancing the state of the start-up sector and continues to invest substantially, and then Australia might bypass New Zealand to claim the title as top country to start a business.

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