SA Budget: Lot 14 boost and digital restart plans

Joseph Brookes
Senior Reporter

The South Australian government will invest more than $20 million into its innovation precinct Lot Fourteen, open a new fund which supports the federal manufacturing strategy, and has detailed more plans for the $120 million digital restart fund as part of the state budget.

But the state’s science and innovation program is being cut by a third as COVID-19 support is wound back and several programs finish.

South Australian Treasurer Rob Lucas handed down the state budget on Tuesday, with new measures to support small business technology capabilities, AI grants and the space sector.

Refurbishments of innovation hub Lot Fourteen will continue over the next financial year at a cost of $20.8 million, but new spaces for startups are not forecast.

Nearly $8 million has been allocated for defence innovation projects and research and development, while $6.6 million will be spent on the state’s space mission, which aims to launch a locally manufactured small satellite into low earth orbit.

South Australian Premier Steven Marshall

The budget came just six months after the delayed 2020 state budget, which included a two-year $4 billion stimulus package.

“Whilst significant progress has been made there is no doubt there is still more work to be done and this budget launches the next stage in our strong economic recovery plan,” Mr Lucas said in his budget speech.

“This budget is our blueprint for a Stronger South Australia — a positive plan that charts our course out of the pandemic by creating jobs, building what matters and delivering better services to further secure our growing global reputation as one of the safest and most attractive places in the world to live, work and raise a family.”

The new budget shows the state’s science and innovation program will be cut nearly $7 million, primarily due to the removal of COVID-19 stimulus measures. However, grants and subsidies controlled by the program are also dropping as several one-off initiatives finish.

Next year the program will spend $8.1 million less, with the end of Black Summer bushfire and COVID-19 support programs for small businesses. Last year’s $2 million spend on the innovation activities for priority industries was also a one-off.

The end of these programs will be partially offset with support and rebates for the screen industry, a new small business capability program and funding for the UniSA Centre for Business Growth.

But ultimately the science and innovation program will have a smaller budget and less grant money to disperse.

Lot Fourteen will receive $20.8 million for one more year of refurbishments with a particular focus on “providing suitable accommodation for small satellite development”, in line with the South Australian space services mission known as SASAT1.

The mission received its own budget boost, with $6.6 million over five years to facilitate the local manufacture of a small satellite to deliver space-derived services to the state.

A launch is scheduled for mid 2022, with the ongoing funds to be used in data collection operations until 2025.

The SASAT1 funding is part of the government’s new Jobs and Economic Growth Fund, which is a rebranding of the previous business growth fund. More than $76 million in unallocated money from the old fund will be topped up to $200 million and delivered over four years.

Parts of the fund were allocated in the new budget, including $7.9 million for the continuation of Defence Innovation Partnership, $900,000 for the extension of the Defence and Space Landing Pad program, and $1.6 million for grants and support of an artificial intelligence and health hub.

A further $8 million from the fund will also go to establishing a new National Test Mine and Innovation Centre in the state’s north.

Some of the remaining fund will be available to support South Australian projects applying for the federal Modern Manufacturing Initiative, which offers funding in priority areas if it is matched by states and the private sector.

The South Australian government said it is currently considering initiatives in the hydrogen, space, defence and plant protein sectors.

The state’s $120 million Digital Restart Fund was not topped up but more details were released on the projects it will fund.

Next financial year, $4.3 million will be used to upgrade the state’s online service portal, $350,00 will go to improving the digital resources available to small businesses, while $325,000 will be spent on a government register for donor conceived South Australians to access information on biological parents.

Half a million dollars has been allocated for a “safeguarding” smartphone app for people with disabilities, their families and support network.

“The app will have inbuilt functions that can connect people to a community volunteer or seek a check on an individual’s wellbeing. It is also intended that the app will provide information and access to advocacy bodies and state and Commonwealth regulatory authorities,” budget papers said.

Multiyear projects funded by the digital restart fund include $5.5 million for an enterprise management system for all public aged care facilities and $1.3 million for three ICT projects in the state’s intensive family services department.

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

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