‘New way of working’ needed for industry and tech policy

Joseph Brookes
Senior Reporter

The Albanese government is being urged to slash the time taken between policy development to industry support from three years to one after a series of delays in the national plans for quantum, artificial intelligence and robotics have held back industry support.

In a pre-budget submission released on Tuesday, the Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA) said the faster turnarounds and more strategic support would help scaleups to commercialise innovation and tap into the Commonwealth’s $80 billion annual procurement spend.

The AIIA also called for a new government body to coordinate and accelerate the growing number of tech-focused strategies, as well as adjacent reforms like privacy law and cybersecurity policy.

Simon Bush
Australian Information Industry Association chief executive Simon Bush

The advocacy group, which claims to represent around 90 per cent of Australians employed in the tech industry, said there is now a high risk of poor implementation for the recent and upcoming tech-focused strategies.

Australia’s AI Action plan took years to develop and implement, with its industry funding being slowed by the 2022 change of federal government and the eventual rebadging of the plan. Its main industry grants will flow from July this year, three years after the funding was originally announced.

The national quantum strategy took more than a year to draft and another five months to launch. New quantum funding tied to the strategy will begin this year, also three years after the plan was first announced.

A robotics plan promised more than 18 months ago and that closed consultations almost nine months ago is yet to be released.

The AIIA has asked for the time between policy development and funding to be slashed from three years to 12 months.

AIIA chief executive Simon Bush said delays in policy and funding are especially damaging for the fast moving tech sector “cause a serious disadvantage” to the wider economy.

“The government needs a new way of working, with the aim of increasing agility and speed of execution between strategy and identified industry and citizen needs. We need to move to actioning the plans and put in a system that drives the momentum of digital transformation.”

The AIIA has recommended a new central government body to coordinate the implementation of technology-focused strategies, as well as policies that will impact the sector like privacy law reforms and changes to the migration system and procurement policies.

The new body could also conduct cost benefit analysis of policy projects in flight to advise the Treasurer on priorities and budget allocations, the submission said.

The AIIA also recommended “wholesale industry reform” focused on commercialisation, a stage in the innovation journey Australia has historically underperformed in.

This should start with a comprehensive review of how innovation is supported in Australia and an immediate focus on supporting industries of strategic importance.

The group also called for a software development tax incentive or grant to support development of innovative software which does not qualify for the R&D Tax Incentive, a widening of the patent box regime to areas of strategic importance and a Federal Digital Innovation Project Fund for government tech projects.

A section of the fund, modelled on efforts in New South Wales, would be for local tech startups and scaleups to work with government on “transformational and innovative projects”. The fund could not be used for business as usual ICT.

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

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