It is with interest that your correspondent notes the recent announcement by the self-proclaimed ‘Agri Politician’ Ian Macfarlane to award a total of four fund management licences in the current round of his Department’s Innovation Investment Fund Venture Capital fund management program.

According to AusIndustry’s website, the IIF program was designed to “provide venture capital to help technology companies in their emerging growth phase and to develop new fund managers in early-stage venture capital investing”.

When the program was launched towards mid 2006, Macfarlane announced that, “…each successful applicant will receive a licence of up to $20 million to establish a fund, to be matched by a minimum, dollar-for-dollar investment by the private sector. We’re expecting two new licences every year for five consecutive years …”

It was therefore somewhat surprising that instead of the expected two, a total of four applicants were announced. The successful applicants include Melbourne’s Lieberman Family (masquerading as Prescient Ventures), a cohort of ex-Deutsche Bank good ‘ole boys calling themselves Accede Capital, the mysterious Brandon Capital Management and the fringe dwellers Cleantech Ventures.

Despite the supposed focus of the program on developing new fund managers, it would be hard to suggest that any of these groups are new fund managers. Brandon’s Principals even boast on their website that they each have more than 20 years’ Venture capital investing experience.

One might suggest that there was never any intent by the government to appoint new fund managers, particularly when a senior member of their application review panel, Nick Callinan ex of Advent Management in Boston, had apparently advised a number of applicants before the fact that there was little chance that he would approve a new team.

Curiouser still, while there was no requirement by AusIndustry for the applicants to focus on any particular technology sector, it is interesting to note that three of the successful applicants have made Clean Technology a major plank of their investment focus.

A lesser soul might suggest that later this year, perhaps around election time, the climate change deniers in the government might suddenly announce a $60m commitment in support of emerging Clean technology.

*Bruce Hardy Esq comes to Crikey as a regular correspondent after a long and illustrious career with senior roles with some of Australia’s best known corporates including Qintex, HIH and OneTel. A respected industry practitioner, experienced financial engineer and well known bon vivant, Bruce is one of Australia’s most respected business commentators

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