Issue 82 - March 2018
Book Review: Innovation and Venture Capital Law and Policy

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Authors: Stephen Barkoczy, Tamara Wilkinson, Ann L Monotti and Mark Davison

Publisher: The Federation Press

Reviewed by David Marks QC

I know of no competing title. Accordingly, this book is significant.

Looking at the chapter listing, one impression is that this could potentially form the curriculum for a Masters course. It reflects the mix of policy and practical content that would be suitable. But I gather the purpose of this work is wider. The work originated in a project at Monash University focused on designing world‑class venture capital programmes to support commercialisation of Australian research.

The book deals with the national context of promotion of innovation; the role of institutions including universities and government; financing and taxation, in supporting innovation; how Australia’s programmes sit in the international context; and how our programmes might be judged from a policy perspective.

I do not mean to say that this is an academic book. (Nor do I see anything wrong with that category of book.)

For the practitioner, the comparison of various programmes will be useful. It is even helpful that the authors cut through the jargon. For example, the difference between an “incubator” and an “accelerator” is explained.

Also, I found graphical analysis of a couple of structures, in chapter 11, useful. A picture is still worth a thousand words. Indeed, when the words are about the interaction of tax and property laws, a picture is altogether preferable!

Some of the discussion is relatively broad. The explanation of the tax system in chapter 8 is one example. Another is the concise explanation of intellectual property in chapter 4.

But this book is not intended to provide more extensive discussion of those areas. There are specialist texts about those topics.

Rather, the book brings together material from a range of areas, relevant to understanding how innovation is encouraged, funded, and structured. And the approach is not “black letter law”. The authors have cast their nets widely. The approach is described as “multi-disciplinary”.

They consider historical and policy matters. For example, in chapter 11, dealing with the limited partnership venture capital tax expenditure programmes, the authors take us back to the Ralph Review (1999).

Thus the book provides useful context for understanding problems when they arise.

This is not a manual. When a question arose about commercialisation of intellectual property, for example, this book does not purport to tell you how to do it. It would, on thorough study, acquaint you with the tools available. It aims for something broader, which is an evaluation of the tools, past and present, which may be of assistance in understanding the limitations of the current tools.

I notice that LexisNexis has a forthcoming title on commercialisation of intellectual property. I suspect that will cover some different ground. (Prof Monotti is a co‑author of that forthcoming title, as well.) This title will hold its own in its market.