The federal government has announced its Industry Innovation and Competitiveness Agenda this afternoon, including plans for five non-profit “industry growth centres” to be rolled out early next year.
As expected, five areas of competitive strength were identified in the announcement. These were food and agribusiness; advanced manufacturing; mining equipment, technology and services; oil, gas and energy resources; and medical technologies and pharmaceuticals.
The centres will be industry-led and focussed on exploiting international markets and supply chains, and commercialising new products.
Citing Australia’s poor record of research/industry collaboration, the announcement stated that the industry growth centres would “bring together expertise from business and industry, the scientific and research communities and the university sector.”
Funding of $188.5 million was allocated to the initiative.
The centres would each get up to $3.5 million in funding annually, and would have to formulate a plan to be self-sustaining after four years.
The Australian Industry Group welcomed the announcement, and stressed that the centres needed to be industry and not research-driven, as well as possess a clear purpose.
"The Government has recognised the need for a practical focus on commercialisation of research," said the Ai Group's chief executive Innes Willox said.
"There should be a focus on the outcomes of the network, rather than creation of a network per se.
"This could be enhanced with a program designed to encourage the participation of small businesses and start-ups, and the creation of ‘linking organisations’ to facilitate the creation of partnerships between research organisations and industry."
Industry minister Ian Macfarlane said expressions of interest from business-led consortia to establish five of these centres would be sought.
The growth centre announcement has broad similarities to the previous government’s Industry Innovation Precincts programme, which had its funding cut in the May budget.
A taskforce to establish the competitiveness agenda was announced in December last year, in response to the news that Holden would end its Australian manufacturing operations.
Also included in this afternoon’s announcement were reforms to the tax treatment of employee share schemes and reforms to the 457 visa program for skilled workers.
More to come…