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AusIndustry is the Federal Government's principal agency for delivering information, programmes and services which support industry and industrial research and innovation. In 2001-02, AusIndustry will deliver 28 programmes with a total value of over $1.8 billion to more than 18,000 customers.
The Government's Innovation Statement, Backing Australia's Ability - an Innovation Action Plan for the Future, is a five-year strategy which will commence in 2001-02 and provide a whole-of-government approach to pursuing excellence in research, science and technology, increasing opportunities for commercialisation, and building a highly-skilled workforce. Over the five years of this strategy, the Government will provide over $2.9 billion for initiatives to promote research, development and innovation. The Statement was announced after two years of consultation with business, research and education groups. It addresses three themes, representing key steps in the innovation process. These are outlined below.
A key objective is to strengthen Australia's research capability, to create critical mass in leading research fields and to build competitive advantage in information and communications technology (ICT) and biotechnology. Backing Australia's Ability provides new investment to ensure that Australia's research base remains strong and internationally competitive, with additional funding for research grants ($736 million over the five years), enhanced infrastructure and facilities ($583 million over five years), and World Class Centres of Excellence in ICT and biotechnology ($91 million over five years). Importantly, it includes incentives to stimulate increased business investment in research and development ($535 million over five years for the extension of the R&D Start competitive grants programme, plus $13 million for the Tax Rebate and $460 million for the 175 per cent Premium).
The Government aims to stimulate growth of innovative firms by improving Australia's capacity to commercialise research and new technologies. Backing Australia's Ability supports commercialisation of research results through initiatives totalling $487.4 million that improve public/private sector links, enhance Australia's capacity to build and manage innovation enterprises, encourage the creation of `spin-off' companies from industry research collaboration, and increase access to overseas science and technology.
Australia's well-educated and culturally diverse society provides a rich environment that generates original and groundbreaking research. The Government's initiatives in this area include increased university places in critical fields ($151 million over five years), support for ongoing skills development (loans of $995 million over five years), increased access to on-line learning opportunities ($34 million over five years), and boosting our skills base through immigration.
Backing Australia's Ability initiatives that specifically benefit regional Australia include the following:
The New Industries Development Programme, with $21.7 million to be allocated over five years, is specifically targeted at assisting agribusiness and technology in rural Australia. Australian agribusiness enterprises will gain the business skills and resources required to successfully commercialise new agribusiness products, technologies and services, thereby generating significant and measurable business and job growth, particularly in rural and regional Australia.
Increases to the Australian Research Council national competitive research grant ($736 million over five years) and research infrastructure funding ($583 million over five years) will have positive impacts on regional universities, boosting the education system and job potential in regions.
Backing Australia's Ability is providing $155 million over five years from 2001-02 to finance the enhancement of existing, and the establishment of new, major national research facilities, thus continuing the programme with a significant increase in funding. The Commonwealth will provide up to 50 per cent of total project costs with at least 50 per cent from sources such as the State and Territory Governments, private research organisations, industry and international institutions and organisations.
The On-line Curriculum Content Programme ($34 million to be allocated over five years) will enhance skills in regional Australia by increasing the range of on-line learning opportunities.
The National Innovation Awareness Strategy ($35 million over five years) will increase science and innovation awareness and encourage young entrepreneurs across Australia. Questacon's Smart Moves will specifically target science awareness in regional schools.
Several initiatives have national scope and will assist business in regional areas. These include (with funding over five years from 2001-02):
Invest Australia, the Federal Government's national investment agency, promotes and facilitates sustainable and productive investment in Australia. Invest Australia is undertaking initiatives designed to increase investment attraction and facilitation in regional Australia and increase awareness of Government programmes for regional areas. It has established a dedicated Regional Australia Investment Strategies team which, in partnership with State and Territory agencies, works with communities to encourage institutional investors, venture capitalists and/or project financiers to invest in regional Australia.
From July 2000 to April 2001, eleven projects in regional areas were granted major project facilitation status. If all projects proceed as planned, they will generate additional capital expenditure of $10.4 billion and some 2,900 full time jobs. A further five projects or stages of projects, previously granted Major Projects Facilitation status, successfully completed the approvals processes necessary to proceed. If these projects proceed as planned, they will generate $5.1 billion in investment and created 1,550 full-time direct jobs.
Invest Australia administers the Feasibility Study Fund, which is directed at attracting prospective investors to establish or expand business operations in Australia. As at April 2001, five active feasibility studies were in progress in regional Australia. If these projects proceed to full development, some $1.2 billion in investment and 499 new permanent jobs may be generated.
Invest Australia has prepared a draft guide, Inside Intelligence: Building and Investor's Guide, to assist rural, remote and regional towns and areas begin the process of developing their own investment attraction strategies and compiling an information database as a useful resource for potential investors. The draft guide is currently being trialed in eleven locations across Australia and is scheduled for release in mid-2001.