Pre-Budget commentary – Start-up Cortical Labs warns of international brain drain

Pre-Budget commentary – Start-up Cortical Labs warns of international brain drain

Australia risks an international technology brain drain if policymakers fail to provide assurances for start-ups at the upcoming Federal Budget, warns Dr Hon Weng Chong, the Founder and CEO of Cortical Labs.
The National Reconstruction Fund – which promised investment in ideas and innovation – is largely dormant, has little-to-no vision or strategy, and has a tender process that is murky at best, believes Dr Chong.
Dr Chong – who in February was invited for an audience with the King of Spain to talk about his biological computers and Organoid Intelligence is providing a powerful, more sustainable form of Artificial Intelligence (AI) – says that there’s a growing feeling that the only way to attract local support is to move overseas.

Dr Chong stated, “There is a growing frustration amongst the Australian start-up community that policy makers both underestimate and underappreciate us. Policy is cautious, investment is slow and sentiment is mixed. More and more we’re seeing some of the most exciting start-ups and minds – not just in Australia but worldwide – leave these shores for more progressive, supportive markets. In 2022, there was a great deal of optimism, when the National Reconstruction Fund was announced. To us, it signalled the dawn of a new era, and investment in a new economy built on Australian innovation, ideas and big-thinkers. Today, with next to nothing to show for its $15 billion fund, it feels like little more than a false dawn.

“We’re in arms races in so many crucial technologies and industries. The countries that capitalise in the coming months and years, will lead global hierarchies for years to come. We’re at risk of being lapped as other economies surpass us. As the Federal Budget approaches, it is absolutely critical that the fund begins to fulfil its intended purpose. Last week we saw the Government invest heavily in a Silicon Valley quantum computing start-up, but the tender process was murky as best. Now it’s time to back local, too.

“We need a clear tender process, from a government that understands what it wants to be a global leader in, and how it can use this incredible resource to unleash the next wave of innovation. Our economy has long-been reliant on natural resources and manufacturing, but it’s essential to diversify that, and embrace the present. If not hundreds – if not thousands – of local start-ups who have potential to change the way we live and work, if they’re not forced to leave these shores.”

“It’s clear the recent government investment into a Silicon Valley-based quantum computing start-up founded by two Aussies validates the advice given to not only aspiring actors but now to technologists: making it big back home in Australia unfortunately requires a move to the US first to prove one’s worth,” ended Dr Chong.