AI adoption centres finally unveiled

Brandon How

Four artificial intelligence centres focused on helping small to medium-sized enterprises safely adopt the technology have been announced by Industry and Science minister Ed Husic.

Sharing in $16.3 million, the new AI centres are funded through the AI Adopt, which was first funded with a $17 million commitment for up to five centres in the 2023-24 federal Budget.

The centres will provide free training to help businesses and their staff develop the skills needed to manage AI technologies, with each centre targeting businesses in different National Reconstruction Fund priority areas.

They will also participate in the National Artificial Intelligence Centre’s (NAIC) responsible AI network, which — along with the NAIC — is currently being moved into Department of Industry, Science, and Resources from CSIRO.

The AI Adopt centres program opened to applications in December 2023 and were based on a similar, but better funded, $44 million plan announced by the former Coalition government in 2021 that never opened.

Investment firm Boab AI and the Cremorne Digital Hub, Digital Transformation Australia and the Advanced Robotics Manufacturing (ARM) Hub, privacy and cybersecurity consultancy elevenM, and Redgrid Internet of Energy Enterprises will lead the four centres.

Digital Transformation Australia, which received the maximum $5 million grant, will support manufacturing SMEs adopt AI across awareness building through to engagement, training, and implementation.

The centre is supported by 39 local AI and robotics companies as well as large tech multinationals.

The Boab-led centre, known as SMEC AI, received a grant worth just less than $4 million. It will target businesses, medical science, agriculture, renewables and low emissions tech, and enabling capabilities.

elevenM Consulting, which will support SMEs in ‘bringing responsible AI to life’ through the development of an “AI assurance software tool”, will receive $3.1 million. It has partnered with the University of Technology Sydney, Microsoft, KPMG, and Atlassian.

The AI assurance software tool is intended to “guide SMEs through the AI lifecycle from ideation, design, development, testing, implementation, oversight and continuous improvement”.

The final $4.2 million has been awarded to Redgrid, which will focus support on regional SMEs in agriculture, forestry and fisheries, and renewable energy technologies.

The funding announcement for the Adopt centres was signaled earlier this month after Mr Husic issued a legislative instrument to formally initiate the program.

In a statement on Tuesday, Mr Husic said the centres would support the push to develop more domestic manufacturing.

“Mobilising industry for a Future Made in Australia will be a whole lot easier if we can get businesses of all shapes and sizes using AI properly,” he said.

“These AI Adopt Centres will be a helpful partner for small businesses to drive productivity and will work with them to develop new products, safely and responsibly.”

Mr Husic’s announcement follows a $40 million commitment to the development of AI policy and the National AI Centre in the 2024-25 federal Budget. No additional support has been provided to industry at a time when other governments are investing billions.

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

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