Innovation program is on track
Mark Cully: Government program evaluations signals ongoing quality improvement
The Department of Industry's Office of the Chief Economist has released a series of reports on the government industry support programs, delivering a largely favorable assessment of the positive impact of the programs.
The reports looked at programs such as the Business Research and Innovation Initiative (BRII) pilot and financial assistance facilities, which it says have substantially improved the position of businesses and entrepreneurs.
“The publication of these evaluation reports aligns with the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science’s Evaluation Plan and illustrates the department’s commitment for more effective and informed use of evaluation to improve the quality of performance reporting on government programs,” the Industry department's chief economist Mark Cully said in a blog post.
One of the research papers investigated whether government financial assistance facilitates Australian business’ access to external financing. It found that firms, especially small firms, seeking financing to invest in innovation and which receive government assistance are more likely to go on to apply for and receive debt or equity financing.
The government financial assistance as catalyst for private financing research paper found that tax concessions have a large positive effect but only for firms intending to invest in innovation.
Although the research paper also found that receiving too many forms of government assistance could also undermine their chances of obtaining financing.
Another research report that evaluated the BRII pilot found it was “well designed and implemented.”
The BRII pilot post-commencement evaluation report indicated just under half the SMEs that progressed to the proof of concept stage have started to commercialise IP developed through the BRII.
The report said those SMEs that worked with agencies during the feasibility study stage “tended to provide high quality proof of concept applications.”
The research also analysed the outcome BRII pilot had for government, with agencies agreeing they see the value in the pilot.
Although, it’s unclear whether agencies will adopt innovative procurement practices or work more with SMEs, the report said.
“The extent to which new approaches to procurement or engaging with SMEs will gain broader traction in challenge agencies post-BRII will depend largely on the ultimate success of the solutions and the extent of associated benefits that can be promoted to agency executives.”
Alongside these findings, the evaluation report made eight recommendations for the department. These included recommending that Industry work with each challenge agency to increase the visibility of BRII’s outcomes-to-date across government, and to maintain an active role in working with agencies to identify, scope and design challenges for any future rounds of BRII.
The department also published a post-commencement evaluation of the federal government’s $36 million global innovation strategy, which was announced as part of the National Innovation and Science Agenda in 2015 as a whole-of-government approach to increasing the nation's innovation and science connections internationally.
The strategy encompasses of four programs: Global Connections Fund (GCF), Global Innovation Linkages (GIL), Regional Collaboration Program (RCP) and Landing Pads.
The report found the strategy was implemented “relatively well” and early performance metrics indicated positive outcomes.
“Early performance metrics indicated there was strong demand for all Strategy programs, and positive early-stage collaboration and commercialisation outcomes from GCF,” the report said.
“The evaluators also found that the delivery arrangements have presented some internal challenges for the policy and program teams.”
However, the report also uncovered that as part of the implementation stage of the Strategy there were some “internal challenges for the policy and program teams.”
“Half the stakeholders interviewed reported internal challenges for the policy team and AusIndustry staff involved in administering GIL,” the report said.
As a result, the report recommended that the GIL policy and program teams should have a clearer understanding of each other’s roles and responsibilities.
Other recommendations that were made included scheduling an interim policy review of GCF and RCP in late 2019, ahead of the current funding contract for both programs ending June 2020.
The Australia-India Strategic Research Fund (ASIRF) evaluation report meanwhile found the program should be continued as the Australian research sector had gained access to significant new research and knowledge.
The ASIRF was designed to support collaborating scientists from India and Australia. To date, the Australian government has committed more than $85 million in grant funding over 16 years.