Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison during his address to the National Press Club on Tuesday, announced AU$2 billion worth of initiatives focused on commercialising research with a specific emphasis on “six manufacturing priority areas”.
The centrepiece of that investment is a 10-year AU$1.6 billion program, called Australia’s Economic Accelerator (AEA), which will focus on commercialising six national manufacturing priority areas including resources and critical minerals, food and beverage, medical products, recycling and clean energy, defence and space.
In his first major speech for the election year, Morrison said the AEA would fund projects as they progressed through the stages of their development.
“This is about funding projects to bridge the ‘valley of death’ where early-stage research is often not progressed due to higher levels of risk and uncertainty,” Morrison said.
Earlier on Tuesday, Minister for Employment, Workforce, Skills, Small and Family Business said the AEA would look to help researchers commercialise blue sky research in these priority areas.
The AU$2.2 billion package also includes a AU$150 million expansion of the CSIRO’s Main Sequence Ventures program, which will focus on helping start-ups promote commercial opportunities and take them to market. According to Morrison, the Main Sequence Ventures program over the past four years has invested in 39 companies that are commercialising deep tech opportunities and created more than 1,200 technology-related jobs.
“Our new investment in this program will ensure it can play a bigger role in our economy and help develop the next generation of great Aussie companies and products,” the prime minister said.
AU$296 million over a decade has also been allocated for the creation of 1,800 industry-focused PhDs and 800 fellowships.
These new initiatives add to the Trailblazer Universities programme that was announced last year, which will put AU$247 million up for grabs among 40 Australian universities for commercialising research. When taking the Trailblazer Universities programme into account, the research commercialisation initiatives announced by the federal government ahead of this year’s election amount to AU$2.2 billion.
The announcements follow the federal government in November last year launching its Blueprint for Critical Technologies, which is a strategy aimed at protecting and promoting critical technologies, with quantum technology to be at the forefront of that.
The blueprint’s action plan contained details of a AU$111 million initiative to build out Australia’s quantum sector. Prior to the blueprint, the local quantum community had long called for the federal government to place resources into helping it commercialise quantum research, with the Australian Information Industry Association previously saying it was a “sad indictment that Australia doesn’t have a national quantum strategy”.