NSW Budget: $700m innovation fund unveiled

Joseph Brookes
Senior Reporter

New South Wales Treasurer Matt Kean’s first budget has billions for science, innovation and clean energy, but the state’s Digital Restart Fund for government technology and services upgrades was not increased for the first time since it launched in 2019.

Mr Kean handed down the State Budget on Tuesday, promising “transformational reform” and a better future for the state.

New innovation initiatives included a new $703 million Future Economy Fund for R&D, commercialisation and business growth and relocation to the state; $119 million for RNA research and manufacturing; a $150 million biomedical accelerator; and $262 million for an advanced manufacturing research facility Sydney’s west.

The budget also includes the previously announced $1.2 billion investment in clean energy through a new facility to develop renewable energy infrastructure.

NSW Treasurer Matt Kean. Image: Twitter

Treasurer Matt Kean said the pandemic had demonstrated the power of medical science, and the state government is investing in the “potential of our ideas” to drive future industries and breakthroughs.

“The great quest of the human mind to understand our world has unlocked opportunity after opportunity and created job after job,” Mr Kean said in his budget speech.

“The reality is that many of the jobs and industries of the future haven’t even been thought of yet. But in this Budget we make sure that many of them will be supported here.”

The largest of these investments is a $703.4 million Future Economy Fund to be invested over four years.

Around half the fund will be used for research commercialisation in fields that will grow the economy and for targeted support of research institutions and small to medium businesses.

$219 million of the new fund will be allocated to growing certain high potential sectors like medtech, defence, and modern manufacturing.

The remaining $142 million is set aside as dedicated funding for R&D in sectors where New South Wales has an existing competitive advantage like quantum computing, and for advancing public-private research collaboration.

The budget also includes more than half-a-billion dollars for research facilities and long-term research programs.

A state-of-the-art biomedical accelerator will be built in Camperdown with $150 million funding to facilitate industry and researcher collaboration.

$119.1 million will be invested in RNA over a decade for therapeutics manufacturing, research and development in conjunction with the state’s new RNA facility.

Nearly $50 million has been set aside for the Viral Vector Manufacturing Facility at Westmead for developing and testing therapies for rare genetic diseases and cancers.

As previously announced, the shared use Advanced Manufacturing Research Facility in Bradfield, western Sydney has been funded with a $261.9 million investment. It is scheduled to be operational in 2026.

The funding commitments follow a 20-year R&D roadmap from the New South Wales government which targets specific sectors and technology applications for support.

“New South Wales is leading the nation when it comes to science, innovation and technology, and we want to be a world leader in translating research into economic outcomes that deliver a brighter future for our State,” Minister for Science, Innovation and Technology Alister Henskens said.

The New South Wales government’s Digital Restart Fund was not increased for the first time since it launched in 2019 with $100 million.

The fund is used to transform internal delivery capability and is considered the “secret weapon” behind the state’s Australian leading digital government services.

It was increased ten-fold in 2020 in a push to “turbo-charge” the program, and was topped up another $500 million last year as more programs were added.

But the now $2.1 billion Digital Restart Fund was not increased in this year’s state budget.

Service NSW – the agency behind many of the digital initiatives funded by the fund – did receive a $536 million funding boost to continue to roll out of existing programs.

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