We have had periods of better funding of some areas of science. We’ve had periods where it was easier for university researchers to get grants. But we’ve never had a time when the major parties have been competing to improve the whole innovation system with such vigour. Australia’s future will be better for it.
Yesterday’s National Innovation and Science Agenda (NISA) announced by the Prime Minister and Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science, is a new, higher, benchmark. There is over $1 billion in 25 or so measures, but the NISA goes a lot further – it puts new governance on innovation and science in Australia. We will now have a Cabinet subcommittee for Innovation and Science.
Innovation Australia becomes Innovation and Science Australia, with statutory powers. These measures alone should mean we finally get an Australian Innovation System that is worthy of the name, “system”. More important than the new money is the fact that it is virtually all ongoing funds. In my opinion, Ian Chubb will retire a satisfied man having railed against the endless “non-ongoing” science programs that wind-up just as they start performing. No longer will we have the farce of our national infrastructure facing closure every year or so.
I went into this morning’s briefing with a list of 12 expectations: five things I expected; five I hoped for; one I dreamed for; and one I hoped the government wouldn’t go for. I’m pleased to say, that I was able to tick every box. The government has blown past my expectations and delivered a great package.
There are a few minor issues. For example, start-ups might face a funding drought until the tax deduction rules are in place. Who is going to invest if a 20% tax advantage is just around the corner? Fast and effective implementation is needed.
The Prime Minister made it clear that NISA is a start. He sees constant adjustment and an agile approach. This is needed. Not only is it necessary in the economic climate that we face, but in the political environment as well. The Australian Labour Party (ALP) got in early last Friday with a raft of proposals on innovation – many we see in this package. A political environment where parties are battling it on a contest of ideas about Australia’s future? That’s exciting for sure. The government won’t be able to use NISA as a one-off to keep a few people happy. They’ll need to keep reviewing and improving — I cannot see the ALP backing away from innovation and science anytime soon.
You can view the National Innovation and Science Agenda here.