ADJOURNMENT: Victoria-Israel Science Innovation and Technology Scheme

Mr SOUTHWICK (Caulfield) — I direct my adjournment matter to the Premier. The action I seek is for the Premier to ensure that funds are made available in the upcoming budget to continue the very important Victoria Israel science innovation and technology scheme (VISITS), an innovation and collaboration partnership between Victoria and Israel. VISITS encourages our great two states to work collaboratively on projects of mutual benefit and access international markets. This program has had bipartisan support in previous years and was launched in 2005 by the then Minister for Innovation, John Brumby, when it was known as the VISTECH program.

In 2012 I led a review of this program with input from the chancellor of Monash University, Dr Alan Finkel, AM; the chairman of the Australia Israel Chamber of Commerce, Leon Kempler, OAM; the former deputy chief of mission to Australia, Meir Itzhaki; and the trade commissioner of the Israel Trade Commission, Ethy Levy. The scheme was reformed under the name VISITS and consisted of four program streams, including VISTRADE, supporting trade missions; VISTRIP, grants for companies to attend conferences, trade missions and meetings in Israel; VISFPC, grants of up to $50 000 for Victorian and Israeli companies to collaborate on feasibility or proof of concept plans; and VISTECH, joint funding to leverage further investment in collaborative projects. In the two years of reviewing the program the Victorian government ran two trade missions, including one focused on health led by former Deputy Premier Peter Ryan. That helped launch Melbourne’s health innovation plan. Since the establishment of the reformed VISITS scheme a number of companies have applied for grants and as a result it has resuscitated the progress in innovation and collaboration between Victoria and Israel. However, I am now informed the agreement has been put on hold.

In answer to a question asked in the other place on 19 March the Minister for Small Business, Innovation and Trade failed to guarantee the continuation of the program. On the Victorian government website all of these programs have now been put on hold, and I have been informed by a number of applicants that they have not heard about their pending applications. In a speech made to the Australia Israeli Chamber of Commerce on 22 October 2014 the now Premier announced a $60 million Startup Victoria election commitment. Now is the time when we need bipartisan support on this to ensure that this program continues and that we are able to collaborate with such countries as Israel, the world leader in start ups.

As the shadow minister for innovation I value investment in idea generation, new industry development and the opportunity for us to learn and collaborate with such countries as Israel, which is the world leader in start ups. I call on the Premier to not throw the baby out with the bathwater and instead build on the great work that is being done and guarantee funding for the VISITS program. This a great international collaboration and business building initiative which deserves bipartisan support.

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