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Start-ups to shutdown: Govt body’s shock axing

Queensland's chief entrepreneur role has been axed and part of the $755 million government office quietly dissolved after five years fostering new businesses.

The State Government will close the Office of the Chief Entrepreneur and replace it with an "advisory council" under its Advance Queensland program.

In 2016, the Palaszczuk government launched the Office of the Chief Entrepreneur to "cement Queensland's reputation as a global innovation hotspot".

However, Innovation Minister Stirling Hinchliffe said the "honorary position" of Queensland's Chief Entrepreneur would now be scrapped in favour of a new approach.

"A new advisory council is in development with a lead entrepreneur, corporate representatives, universities, venture capital and ambassadors representing all parts of the new economy to help start-ups and scale-ups with knowledge and networks," he said.

"We've listened to the feedback of the state's budding entrepreneurs."


Queensland’s former Chief Entrepreneur Leanne Kemp.
Queensland’s former Chief Entrepreneur Leanne Kemp.

Mr Hinchliffe said staff from the Office of the Chief Entrepreneur would shift to support the advisory council, however, it is understood some staff have been told their contracts will not be renewed.

The abolition of the chief entrepreneur in favour of a government-led advisory panel has drawn criticism from some who attended a "round table" meeting last month to discuss future plans.

Leanne Kemp, Queensland's final Chief Entrepreneur who held the role for two years until December, questioned whether the advisory council would be effective.

"How is this council going to do real engagement, education, mentoring or coaching?"

"The big question remains; what is the real role of government in innovation and entrepreneurship?

"The roundtable certainly avoided the question, despite it being asked.

"What is happening now … is the (start-up) community pretzel bending to fit the fancy footwork of a few dual-purpose actors," she said.

"We should be thinking about innovation as a platform, rather than a set of service and grant provisions."

Advance Queensland is the government's $755 million program to drive innovation and raise the state's profile as an investment destination.

Mr Hinchliffe said the Advance Queensland program had supported more than 25,000 jobs - with the program continuing to guide innovators through a network of hubs in Brisbane, Townsville, Cairns, Rockhampton and Toowoomba.

Inaugural chief entrepreneur Mark Sowerby's stint was followed by that of well-known investor and Shark Tank presenter Steve Baxter.

In 2016 Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the chief entrepreneur's office - first launched on a $1.5 million, two-year contract - would "help Queensland attract more venture capital and turn ideas into businesses and jobs".


Originally published as Start-ups to shutdown: Govt body's shock axing