NSW sets up new agency to oversee R&D spend


Joseph Brookes
Senior Reporter

The NSW government is to establish a new agency dedicated to research and development, following recommendations to improve outcomes from the nearly half a billion dollars it spends each year on R&D.

Speaking at an Australian Financial Review Business Summit on Tuesday afternoon, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian unveiled a new government body – Investment NSW – that will act as a one-stop shop for businesses looking to invest in the state.

Investment NSW will include an independent R&D agency that will oversee the whole of government spending on R&D, including on research-related investment attraction.

Gladys Berejiklian
Gladys Berejiklian: A new R&D NSW agency that will oversee the state’s research spending

Ms Berejiklian said Investment NSW is an opportunity to capitalise on Australia’s relative success in managing the COVID-19 pandemic.

“There’s a lot of pent-up demand and I’m hopeful that the economy will keep turning corners, and it’s really important for us to be working hand in glove with business.”

She said said Investment NSW would consolidate all the state’s research and development capacity alongside all investment arms of government “so that business has a one stop shop”.

“So, if you want to set up in New South Wales increase your footprint, or do something innovative, or have an idea, there will be one shopfront for business,” the Premier told the AFR business summit.

Investment NSW’s new agency, R&D NSW, is part of the state government’s response to an action plan to accelerate innovation through R&D.

That action plan – which is the result of a long consultation with an R&D Taskforce that began before COVID-19 — found NSW could accelerate innovation and economic growth by developing more research and development capability and investing in ‘soft’ infrastructure.

This focus on ‘soft’ infrastructure would compliment NSW’s large-scale ‘hard’ or built infrastructure, according to the action plan, delivered by Accelerating R&D in NSW Advisory Council Chair David Gonski and Parliamentary Secretary to the Premier Gabrielle Upton.

“NSW as a state can be the R&D leader in Australia, I have no doubt about this,” Ms Upton told InnovationAus on Tuesday. “This new agency, makes it clear that we are putting in place the steps that make that possible.”

Ms Upton said R&D NSW is expected to sit within another new body, Investment NSW, which is part of the Department of Premiere and Cabinet cluster. It will connect to other programs in government but will focus specifically on supporting translational research.

“NSW R&D is discrete, it’s purely about research. It will have carriage of programs that already exist across government. But it’s in a place inside of government where it can be whole of government.”

Previously responsibility for R&D programs have sat across different government clusters, meaning some of the $486 million worth of research programs have lacked “currency” and “accountability”, according to Ms Upton.

“It wasn’t doing the job that that cluster was about and it was trying to manage and babysit an activity that went across other clusters. It just wasn’t a very practical way of making the most of that investment.”

A central agency for R&D was part of one of five priority areas for government recommended in the R&D Action Plan delivered in January.

An R&D “matchmaking” platform to connect research buyers and sellers was also recommended, as well as boosting open and portable data; develop precincts like Sydney’s Tech Central to attract talent; and targeting strategic support for NSW Universities.

Ms Upton said funding has been secured for the Small Business Innovation Research program and the matchmaking platform.

Billed on Tuesday as a “one stop shop” for business interacting with government, Investment NSW is designed to help the government attract billions of dollars in investment from local and international business.

The government says locating R&D NSW within Investment NSW will allow it to work more strategically and in a coordinated way to attract investors and create new jobs.

 

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