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In an apparent change of heart from the federal Coalition, industry minister Ian Macfarlane has spoken in favour of the Innovation Precinct program, suggesting an announcement could be made relating to the precincts “before Christmas”.
The Australian reports that Macfarlane, speaking on a panel at an event at Shell’s Innovation Open House yesterday, said he would “pick up” on Labor’s plan to bring researchers and businesses together.
“I don’t think anyone has a clue what a precinct is,” the minister said. “But if you describe them as collaborative centres of excellence and if you then pulled in people at an extremely high level, I think you could put together a model that will bring about some change in that space,”
“So can I just say, watch that space. There could be something that will interest you all before Christmas in that area.”
The firstof ten planned precincts was dedicated to manufacturing, and was opened in May. The precinct network was budgeted at slightly more than $500 million and was part of the then-Labor government’s Plan For Australian Jobs.
The Manufacturing Innovation Precinct, headquartered at Clayton, Victoria, is now known as META (Manufacturing Excellence Taskforce Australia).
The Coalition’s former industry spokesperson, Sophie Mirabella (who lost her seat in the September election), expressed scepticism about the usefulness of the Innovation Precincts program, telling Manufacturers’ Monthly in July that the Coalition planned to do away with the precincts if elected.