Sweating on the ISA 2030 plan

James Riley
Editorial Director

Innovation and Science Australia chairman Bill Ferris’ aim to hand his 2030 Strategic Plan for the nation’s industry development policies to government this week has been thwarted by circumstance.

The much-anticipated Strategic Plan was commissioned by government as a central plank in its National Innovation and Science Agenda in late 2015 to provide a policy roadmap for building Australia’s innovation capacity.

The report’s completion has been put back and its public release is still to be determined.

Bill Ferris: Overseeing the biggest innovation policy paper Australia has ever produced

Innovation and Science Australia chief executive Dr Charles Day told InnovationAus.com the high profile ISA board met last Thursday to finalise the plan and decided there was still “some tidying up to do.”

“We still need to go back and approve the final wording, but the board is very happy with where things are right now,” Dr Day said.

The timing of the Strategic Plan’s public release is likely caught up in the unfortunate ministerial changes that resulted from Industry Minister Arthur Sinodinos taking temporary leave to deal with a health issue.

While Cabinet minister Michaelia Cash has been given responsibility for Senator Sinodinos’ portfolio on an acting basis, in practical terms the ISA Strategic Plan is now the responsibility of assistant minister for industry, innovation and science Craig Laundy.

“The Government expects to receive ISA’s 2030 Strategic Plan towards the end of 2017. The timing for the public launch of ISA’s 2030 Strategic Plan has not yet been determined,” a spokesman for Mr Laundy said yesterday.

If the 2030 Strategic Plan seems to have been a long time coming, it has also been one of the most far reaching in terms of its engagement with industry from across the economy. The engagement process attracted more than 100 written submissions and 400 formal conversations with interested parties – either one-on-one or through workshops.

The high level of engagement has driven an equally high-level of interest in what the report can deliver.

Innovation and Science Australia has been criticised during the process for its reliance on outside consultants to development the plan.

ISA awarded a $425,000 contract to Canberra-based boutique consultancy Howard Partners, who worked in conjunction with UK-based Technopolis Group for advice on Australian and international ecosystem issues, and to run the engagement and consultation process.

More recently, ISA handed a $500,000 fixed-price contract to global consultants McKinsey to handle the final preparation of the 2030 Strategic Plan.

The ISA board also had input from a number of ‘Expert Reference Groups’ covering different part of the ecosystem, as well as a ‘Commonwealth Reference Group’ made up of senior executives from most Commonwealth departments.

It has also worked closely with the Industry department’s Office of the Chief Economist, ISA chief executive Charles Day said.

“It has been very much a team effort,” Dr Day said. “The report lays out a series of recommendations – some of those are short term and some are medium term.”

“We don’t think this report is going to solve every issue. It’s really a process of ongoing improvement and we are signalling the direction that we need to go, and our commitment to work with colleagues across the federal government to help make that real,” he said.

The ISA Strategic Plan is not the only industry policy that is being hotly anticipated by the industry.

Craig Laundy is also overseeing the final stages in putting together the long-overdue government response to the Ferris, Finkel, Fraser review of the R&D Tax Scheme. The 3F review was handed to government 18 months ago making six key recommendations.

It would not be at all surprising if government elects to respond to the R&D Tax Incentive review at around the same time as it releases the ISA report. While the response to the tax review seems very late, the Tax Incentive Scheme represents the single biggest taxpayer investment in the innovation system and it would make sense that it form a big part of the ISA’s Strategic Plan

Bill Ferris alluded to this two weeks ago when he told the AFR Innovation Summit two weeks ago that it was “a good thing” that the government had held off making a response, because the R&D tax scheme was such a big component of the innovation system in this country.

Mr Laundy’s office said the government was not going to rush to judgement.

“It is important that the Government gives careful consideration to the policy settings for this important initiative, in which tax payers are investing over $3 billion a year,” Mr Laundy’s spokesman said.

“This is the largest innovation program in Australia, and the Government will take the time necessary to develop a measured response before announcing the outcome of its deliberations,” he said.

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

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