PM calls for ideas boom

Government to inject $1.1 billion into a plan aimed at boosting innovation and science to drive an ideas boom in Australia

Tax breaks for risk-taking businesses and a boost in science spending lie at the heart of a four-year $1.1 billion innovation package designed to drive an ideas boom in Australia.

Launching his 16-page innovation agenda, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said Australia was falling behind in terms of maths and science teaching in schools, collaboration between researchers and industry, and businesses taking risks.

‘This package is an absolutely critical part of securing our prosperity,’ he said in Canberra on Monday, 7 December.

‘The big gearshift here is a cultural one – if we can inspire people to be innovative…I promise you our opportunities are boundless.’

Mr Turnbull’s first major policy since taking over the top job in September includes a special cabinet committee to put innovation and science at the heart of policy making, and a new board to be known as Innovation and Science Australia.

The new body’s first job will be to review the existing research and development tax incentive program.

Businesses will have easier access to the $5 billion spent by the government on IT each year via a new digital marketplace, and the government will also take a new attitude to public data, making non-sensitive data available by default, potentially opening the way for a new wave of apps and other digital products.

A new $200 million CSIRO innovation fund will co-invest in new spin-off companies and existing start-ups that will develop technology from the science agency and universities, and medical research will benefit from a $250 million biomedical translation fund.

Two major science projects – the Australian Synchrotron and the Square-Kilometre Array – will be funded over the next decade to the tune of $814 million as part of a $2.3 billion plan to build world-class research facilities.

Two programs will replace the existing six research block grants which go to universities, topped up with $127 million of new funding over four years.

A new entrepreneurs’ visa will bring up-and-coming talent into Australia and ‘landing pads’ in Silicon Valley and other places.