Australian Innovation

Jon Stanhope - Innovation Festival Foreword

It is the task of the ACT Government, and indeed of every Canberran, to embrace innovation to ensure we thrive in the future. There is no doubt that innovation is continuing to grow in importance as one of the key drivers of our economic growth and social well-being.

The ACT Government helps marry innovation and industry through a range of programs and seeks to nurture emerging knowledge-based industries. The Government, along with industry, must continually assess and identify our city’s strengths, predict opportunities, then mould an environment that actively encourages creativity and fosters innovation. Significant challenges loom in many areas, particularly health, productivity, adapting to an ageing population and the environment.

The ACT Government believes innovation is core to grappling with and overcoming these challenges. And it’s here that our culture of research excellence in the ACT has taken on a distinctly practical edge – an innovative edge, a commercial edge. We are nurturing the links between academia, industry and Government– and that includes the lower and medium industry uses of technology.

We strive to use our creative, intellectual and technical capacity to deliver outcomes that matter - a strong economy, more jobs, a cleaner environment, better health, a richer culture, and a guaranteed future for our children. The ACT Government is putting substantial financial support towards business innovation. That support is strong and ongoing. Recent ACT budget-funded initiatives include:

• $1.5 million over three years towards a small grants program (Innovation Connect – ICon), which is positioned to co-fund specific projects and activities that contribute to the performance of early stage creative technology businesses.

• $500,000 per annum to the Lighthouse Business Innovation Centre – a joint initiative between the ACT Government and the former IT incubator, Epicorp. Lighthouse is a specialist advisory service designed to work closely with new and young creative technology entrepreneurs.

We are also keeping abreast of the national picture.

The ACT Government continues to support the National Information and Communications Technology of Australia Ltd (NICTA) in partnership with Commonwealth, State Government partners and universities.

Currently we are in the second funding agreement (from July 2007) to provide $6 million over five years. This builds on the $20 million the ACT Government contributed with other partners in 2002 which resulted in $41.2 million of direct Commonwealth funding to NICTA in Canberra, plus        significant indirect financial benefits.

The ACT Government and NICTA are also collaborating with leading industry partners to establish an e-government cluster in Canberra to deliver e-Government research of national benefit. We are providing $150,000 to help establish the Cluster in 2009-10, with a commitment for a further $100,00 per annum through to 2011-12.

The ACT Government supported the establishment of the CSIRO’s Canberra Plant Phenomics Facility, contributing $1.1 million to the establishment of this $18 million facility. One of the more sizeable, and interesting, investments for the ACT Government has been $2.5 million to establish an $8.1 million Climate Change Institute with the Australian National University (ANU).

This is a significant investment in our future. The Institute will work closely with the ACT Department of Environment, Climate Change, Energy and Water in implementing elements of this Government’s climate change strategy, Weathering the Change. We recognise that institutions such as the ANU are pivotal in our efforts to challenge and change the way things are done.

The ANU has secured $90 million to build the Chemical Sciences Hub, $60 million for the John Curtin School of Medical Research redevelopment, and $88.4 million to participate in the international collaborative driving the Giant Magellan Telescope project. Importantly, these projects will not only attract researchers and their families to Canberra, but promote a flow of related events and tertiary students.

Our ACT regional economy is dynamic and growing with impressive innovation credentials:
• We have proportionately more knowledge workers than any other region in Australia.
• We boast world-class science, R&D and innovation infrastructure that places us among the leading knowledge hubs of the world.
• Canberra is home to some of the country’s leading creative minds, in the fields of arts, sciences, technology, government and industry, and academia.

The ACT already boasts the highest research per capita expenditure intensity in the country, at more than 4% of Gross State Product, constituting over 10% of this country’s public-sector R&D. The Government’s goal is to see that a greater proportion of this R&D is commercialised locally with jobs and dollars to follow.

One of the ACT Government’s goals is increasing those commercial outcomes. There are many opportunities to better link our creative and commercial sectors, our artists with our scientists, our entrepreneurs with our innovators. The strength of the creative sector here in Canberra adds considerably to the capacity of our economy to innovate.

The ACT Government is acutely aware that economies that innovate hold significant competitive advantage in the global market. We already have that advantage, but there is more to be done. Our funding, our policies and our communication with all stakeholders are linking the ACT’s creative minds with technology from throughout the world. This will open the ACT’s doors to the ideas and industries that can benefit our future in so many ways.

Innovation is not an option – it’s a necessity

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