Problems with picking winners

Two recent news stories confirm that governments should leave it to private investors to decide which commercial projects get funding.

Governments may simply invest where it’s fashionable (e.g. biotech, renewable energy) and miss some really good opportunities associated with less fashionable products.

Des Houghton in yesterday’s Courier-Mail reports:

A BRISBANE scientist who invented what is said to be the world’s safest bike helmet has poured scorn on Queensland Smart State ”pretenders” who spurned his award-winning technology.

Don Morgan’s ingenious cone-head helmets are popular in the US, Canada and Europe after crash tests found them up to 20 per cent more effective than conventional helmets.

The cone-head helmets designed at Morgan’s home in Yeronga, in Brisbane’s south, are preferred by US motocross professionals but are not yet available in Australia.

”I’m angry about the way I was treated by the Queensland government,”  Morgan says. ”I had always wanted to have them manufactured in Queensland and exported from Queensland but I was repeatedly fobbed off.”

Brisbane inventor of world’s safest bike helmet attacks Smart State ‘pretenders’

There’s also the risk that the government supports some really questionable products, and that support lends credibility to dubious operators.

Friday’s Sydney Morning Herald reports:

Tim Johnston, the chief of failed fuel pill company Firepower, has told a court the federal government department Austrade helped boost his company’s profile overseas.

In the Federal Court in Perth, Mr Johnston and other parties have been accused of raising funds from investors in breach of the Corporations Act.

Mr Johnston was the controversial promoter of an unproven fuel-saving pill until his Perth-based fuel technology company collapsed, costing hundreds of ordinary investors tens of millions of dollars.

Firepower chief appears in Court

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