Greg Combet AM MP
Minister for Industry and Innovation
This post first appeared on the CIE Blog.

Last week, in response to the Sydney Morning Herald article and ensuing debate on Australia’s ‘brain drain’  the Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship invited the Honourable Greg Combet, Minister for Industry and Innovation, to contribute a guest blog post to the discussion. Please note that the views expressed below are those of the author and do not reflect an official statement or position of the CIE, or the Australian School of Business.

The Australian economy is globalising and fast. One facet of this trend is the way Australian entrepreneurs are criss-crossing the world, building experience and networks and selling not just themselves and their products and services, but the view of Australians as global entrepreneurs.

A series of articles in the Sydney Morning Herald has bemoaned this so called “brain drain” as, mostly young, entrepreneurs depart our shores in search of investment and markets for their ideas. The fact is that these journeys are part of the economic and social transformation that shows a path to the future of the Australian economy. This is no “brain drain” but actually a small country finding opportunities in a global market and punching above its weight.

As these entrepreneurs know, a global audience of 7 billion investors, customers and partners brings tremendous opportunity. Closing our borders or limiting our aspirations to the domestic market alone will only limit the entrepreneurs’ growth and our economy’s growth.

We need these entrepreneurs to mentor and introduce local businesses to global networks, to share their experiences and to promote Australia’s strengths around the world. We don’t want to lose them – but we should recognise that they don’t need to be physically here to add value.

Our long-term competitive advantage is in the ideas and energy of our people. The coming century will be shaped by significant geographical, demographic and technological trends.

Two of those technological trends that our entrepreneurs are already tapping into are clean technology and ICT. The Government is making significant investments in infrastructure, skills, research and innovation to support their initiative.

The $36 billion National Broadband Network is the most ambitious investment in infrastructure in our history. The NBN is the cornerstone of our Digital Economy Strategy, which will help Australia become a leading global digital economy by 2020.

The NBN will provide the platform for Australian businesses to develop, distribute and benefit from a wide array of digital applications and services. This opportunity will catalyse local development and take-up but also tell the world that Australians will be players in the global digital economy.

Faster broadband will provide benefits to the Australian economy through digital productivity, cloud computing and virtual collaboration.

The Australian Government’s Clean Energy Future plan will encourage the development of low carbon energy generation technologies. The transformation of the energy sector will drive $100 billion in investment in renewable energy electricity generation over the period to 2050.

We’re also investing almost $9 billion per annum in science, research and innovation, representing a 35 per cent increase on the 2007 figures.

In addition to the digital economy and clean energy strategies, the Government has a comprehensive set of support programs for Australian entrepreneurs to innovate and commercialise new technologies.

The new R&D Tax Incentive which delivers a significant increase in support for entrepreneurs; Commercialisation Australia; Enterprise Connect and the current round of the Innovation Investment Fund where the Government will be committing up to $100m of co-investment.

It is hard to predict the future but two things are certain – we’re going to be more connected and going to be doing more with less from a resource perspective. So, instead of pessimism, we should also be celebrating the increased globalisation of our entrepreneurs. The experiences, networks and success that they are having on a global stage are part of this transformation. Our challenge is to remain connected with our own global citizens and use these Australian links to our advantage.

The Australian Government is making a significant investment in the future and laying the policy foundations that will help our entrepreneurs make their mark in global markets.

This post first appeared on the Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship CIE Blog.