Industry, Innovation and Science: Regional Australia—Driving Our Economy 2017–18

The Industry, Innovation and Science portfolio contributes to the Australian Government’s economic agenda by enabling the growth and productivity of globally competitive industries. The portfolio supports scientific capability, strong science, technology, engineering and mathematics skills, and scientific literacy as critical requirements for productivity and economic growth. Our activities:

  • facilitate nationwide action on deregulation, skills, collaboration, commercialisation, and international engagement;
  • support businesses to innovate and collaborate with scientists and researchers to maximise commercial returns from public investment in science, research and development;
  • facilitate competitive marketplaces which are conducive to business growth;
  • encourage business investment to improve competitiveness and to achieve or support sustainable adjustment to competitive sectors or areas of growth;
  • contribute to unlocking the potential of northern Australia; and
  • streamline the way businesses access Government information and services via www.business.gov.au.

The Industry, Innovation and Science portfolio has a broad regional presence through its networks and agencies, including: AusIndustry; the National Measurement Institute; the Office of Northern Australia; the Australian Institute of Marine Science; the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation; and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation. Specifically, the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science has 35 per cent of staff located outside Canberra in 31 locations throughout Australia. The portfolio interacts with around 200,000 businesses each year, in metropolitan, regional and remote locations. The program and service delivery division, AusIndustry, provides knowledgeable referrals to other streams of support that contribute to local business activity and economic development.

New Initiatives

Advanced Manufacturing Fund

The Australian Government has allocated $100.0 million over two years from 2017–18 to boost innovation, skills and employment in advanced manufacturing, an enabler for both urban and regional areas. Measures include:

  • $47.5 million for a new Advanced Manufacturing Growth Fund, building on the existing $155.0 million Growth Fund that helps industry adjust to the wind-down of car manufacturing. The funding is for up to a third of the project cost of capital upgrades to establish and expand high value manufacturing in South Australia and Victoria. This will help make businesses more competitive through innovative processes and equipment;
  • $4.0 million for the Advanced Manufacturing Growth Centre to support small scale and pilot research projects in advanced manufacturing, benefiting small firms and early stage researchers, allowing them to quickly move to larger scale research or commercialisation;
  • $20.0 million under the Cooperative Research Centre—Projects initiative for larger scale advanced manufacturing research projects of up to $3.0 million in funding over three years;
  • $10.0 million to establish Innovation Labs in South Australia and Victoria to serve industry in a variety of roles including test centre facilities and business capability development, delivered through existing government services like the Entrepreneurs’ Programme, Industry Growth Centres and Austrade;
  • $5.0 million to maintain engineering excellence by investing in student research at universities, technology institutions and in industry to continue the flow of highly trained engineers to the automotive design and engineering sector; and
  • $13.5 million tariff reduction on imported vehicle prototypes and components used by Australian motor vehicle design and engineering services that operate in a global network.

Cooperative Research Centre Programme

The Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) Programme, established in 1990, is a competitive, merit-based grant program that supports industry–led collaborations between industry, researchers and the community. The CRC Programme has two funding streams:

  • CRCs, which undertake medium to long term, industry-led high quality collaborative research; and
  • CRC Projects (CRC-Ps), which undertake a short-term, industry-identified and industry-led collaborative research project.

Businesses investing in research and development through CRCs and CRC-Ps are increasing their income, competitiveness and productivity. The CRC Programme continues to support CRCs and CRC–Ps that have impacts on rural and regional Australia.

CRCs and CRC-Ps contribute to strengthening rural and regional development in areas such as our agriculture and mining industries, farming systems, participation of remote communities and improving health outcomes for Indigenous Australians. Regional businesses (including small and medium–sized enterprises), Rural Research and Development Corporations, universities and other research organisations can be a part of CRCs and CRC-Ps and their activities.

Maintaining Australia’s Optical Astronomy Capability

The Australian Government is investing an additional $26.1 million from 2017–18 to 2020-21 to maintain Australia’s reputation for world-renowned astronomical research and instrumentation through unparalleled international collaboration and opportunity. This measure secures the continued operation of the Anglo-Australian Telescope, located in regional Coonabarabran, until at least 2024, benefiting jobs, tourism and the local economy. The investment involves a ten–year strategic partnership with the European Southern Observatory from 1 January 2018. This partnership will provide Australian scientists and businesses competitive access to research infrastructure and industry opportunities with the world’s foremost eight-metre optical/infrared telescopes at La Silla and Paranal Observatories in Chile. This partnership will also be complemented by the transition of Australia’s world-leading research and commercial capabilities in optical astronomy, through the Australian Astronomical Observatory, from government to research–sector ownership from 1 July 2018. This is expected to create new options and pathways to expand industry engagement across Australia, and to commercialise innovative technologies and spin-off applications on an international stage. This measure addresses the critical gap in astronomy capability identified in the Decadal Plan for Australian Astronomy (2016–2025).

Digital Earth Australia

Digital Earth Australia has received funding in the 2017–18 Budget through the Public Service Modernisation Fund. $15.3 million over two years, from 2017–18, supports a national, open big-data analysis capability that will enable measurement and detection of changes across the Australian landscape over time. Digital Earth Australia will translate almost three decades of existing satellite imagery of the Australian continent and coastline into insights about the health and productivity of the Australian continent. Digital Earth Australia will provide comprehensive, timely and accurate information about regional and remote Australia, on par with urban Australia. This will provide individuals, governments and businesses with open data and new capabilities to increase efficiency, bolster profits and create jobs. For example, Digital Earth Australia could allow the assessment of cropping, pasture management and livestock decisions made at any time during the last three decades. The Australian and State and Territory governments will use Digital Earth Australia as an evidence base to improve the design, implementation, and evaluation of policies, programs and regulations. This is a world first. Digital Earth Australia will also support Australia’s developing digital economy by providing access to reliable, standardised satellite data that can be used to build new algorithms and applications for commercial purposes. This will create opportunities for new businesses and innovations and will allow businesses to deliver products in a more efficient way, saving time and money.

National Business Simplification Initiative—Connecting Government Digital Business Services

The Connecting Government Digital Business Services initiative allocates $9.1 million in 2017–18 to simplify, improve and enable the linking of businesses registration and licensing services across all levels of government. Businesses, including those in regional areas, will be guided through the registration and licensing processes, easily moving between different government sites or services. This will deliver benefits to businesses including greater consistency and reliability of government information, reduction in time spent, and reduction in complexity and duplication. Businesses will be able to access registration and licensing services either through a State website or through the national business.gov.au website. Further, the initiative will give businesses greater confidence that they have met their obligations. This initiative has been estimated to save Australian businesses over $50.0 million per annum.

Energy for the Future—Gas Supply and Affordability

Energy for the Future—gas supply and affordability provides $28.7 million over four years from 2017–18 to 2020-21 to support positive state-based programs, increase community benefits from gas development and provide better information to landholders, to  accelerate the responsible development of onshore gas.

Through the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) Energy Council, this initiative will also explore opportunities to improve landowner benefits from gas activities, including the development of a model land access agreement to educate landowners in negotiating access, compensation and remuneration agreements with onshore gas operators. A communications strategy will also be developed to communicate technical and scientific research to non-experts. Through addressing community concerns, this initiative will encourage investment in new supplies of gas and reduce the risk of domestic gas shortage which may occur in 2020 in the absence of new supply.

Alcoa Portland Aluminium Smelter—Financial Assistance

In 2016–17 the Australian Government provided a $30.0 million grant to the Alcoa Portland Aluminium Smelter as part of efforts by the Australian Government to secure the ongoing viability of the smelter following the damage caused by the power outage incident on 1 December 2016. The grant will be used to restore operations and provide certainty for workers. In conjunction with a support package from the Victorian Government, this assistance will enable the smelter to maintain operations until at least 30 June 2021. Industry transition assistance, such as this support to Alcoa in the Portland region in Victoria, recognises the value of businesses and industries to regional communities.

Installation of Solar Photovoltaic System

Through the Public Service Modernisation Fund, $1.8 million (over 2017–18 and 2018–19) has been allocated to deliver an off grid solar photovoltaic system to provide supplementary low cost electricity to the Australian Institute of Marine Science’s regional Cape Ferguson headquarters. This site houses the National Sea Simulator, a world-class marine research aquarium facility for tropical marine organisms in which scientists can conduct cutting-edge research. This investment will help lift the current utilisation of the National Sea Simulator from 65 per cent to 90 per cent while reducing costs and carbon emissions. This investment will also help the local region through the employment of local contractors to install the solar photovoltaic system.

Current Initiatives

White Paper on Developing Northern Australia

In June 2015, the Australian Government released Our North, Our Future: White Paper on Developing Northern Australia (White Paper). The White Paper is a vision and a plan to unlock the great potential and opportunities of the north, capitalising on the region’s strengths and removing barriers to investment. The White Paper underscores the importance of ensuring regulation protects the community and the environment while also supporting markets, investment and innovation.

The Office of Northern Australia in the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science is coordinating the delivery of 51 discrete initiatives under the White Paper, across 14 different government agencies. As of 20 February 2017, 25 initiatives from the White Paper have been implemented, although deliverables under some of these initiatives will continue into the medium and long term and will be actively monitored.

In addition to this coordinating role, the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science has responsibility for the delivery of the following measures:

  • the $5.0 billion Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility;
  • expanded access to the Entrepreneurs’ Programme to include tourism and smaller northern Australian businesses;
  • $75.0 million for the Cooperative Research Centre for Developing Northern Australia;
  • what is now known as the Major Projects Facilitation Agency in Darwin; and
  • the Office of Northern Australia in the north.

The Darwin Office of the Office of Northern Australia was opened on 18 December 2015. The Major Projects Facilitation Agency’s Darwin office was opened on 18 January 2016.

The following initiatives stem from the White Paper on Developing Northern Australia:

  • Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility;
  • Northern Australian Tourism Initiative;
  • Northern Australia Water Resource Assessment; and
  • Cooperative Research Centre for Developing Northern Australia.

Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility

The Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF), announced in the 2015–16 Budget, is a major initiative of the Our North, Our Future: White Paper on Developing Northern Australia and is integral to the Australian Government’s strategy for the north.

The NAIF opened for business on 1 July 2016 and will offer up to $5.0 billion over five years in concessional finance to encourage and complement private sector investment in economic infrastructure (such as rail, water, energy, communications networks, ports and airports) that otherwise would not be built or would not be built for some time.

The NAIF is an independent corporate Commonwealth entity that operates at arm’s length to the government. The NAIF Board makes decisions about the eligibility and financing of all economic infrastructure projects in accordance with the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility Investment Mandate, under the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility Act 2016. This support for transformative economic infrastructure will be a significant step for the longer term expansion of the economy and population in northern Australia. Investment will be spread across the three jurisdictions in northern Australia.

Northern Australian Tourism Initiative

The Northern Australia Tourism Initiative is one of a suite of new programs announced in response to the Our North, Our Future: White Paper on Developing Northern Australia. This initiative was launched in February 2016 and provides $13.6 million over four years to provide more help to tourism businesses in northern Australia to grow, be smarter and be more internationally competitive. It extends both the Entrepreneurs’ Programme and the Australian Small Business Advisory Services (ASBAS) program to better target the needs of the northern Australian tourism industry.

The Entrepreneurs’ Programme provides northern tourism businesses with practical support to build management and business capability, helping businesses to improve their performance and grow. A new tourism service has also been developed to assist small groups of businesses to address a joint challenge so they can work together to make the most of northern Australian tourism market opportunities.

Under ASBAS Northern Australia Tourism Initiative, not–for–profit small business advisory services are funded to improve their capability to provide low-cost advisory and information services to Indigenous and non–Indigenous tourism small businesses and tourism small business intenders in northern Australia. Seven ASBAS projects commenced delivery of services to tourism small businesses and tourism small business intenders in northern Australia on 1 July 2016. The projects will continue until 30 June 2019.

Northern Australia Water Resource Assessment

As announced on 26 February 2016, the Australian Government provided $15.0 million in funding, over three years to June 2018, under Our North, Our Future: White Paper on Developing Northern Australia for the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) to work with northern jurisdictions, research partners and communities to undertake assessments as part of the Northern Australia Water Resource Assessment. The assessments focus on the Mitchell river basin in Queensland, the Darwin river basins (Finniss, Adelaide, Mary and Wildman) in the Northern Territory and the Fitzroy river basin in Western Australia. These assessments will be similar to the work CSIRO undertook in the Flinders and Gilbert Agricultural Resource Assessment which identified up to 50,000 hectares of new irrigated agriculture opportunities for north Queensland and informed the revision of the Gulf Water Plan.

Cooperative Research Centre for Developing Northern Australia

The Our North, Our Future: White Paper on Developing Northern Australia included $75.0 million over ten years to establish a Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) for Developing Northern Australia, which is expected to be operational in 2017–18. The CRC will assist businesses, governments and researchers to work together to identify opportunities for business and growth in the north. The industry-led CRC, based in Townsville is focusing initially on agriculture, food and tropical health areas where the north has particular strengths.

The Australian Government has called for applications for short-term collaborative research projects that will lead to direct impacts and improve the competitiveness of industries in northern Australia. This early funding round will provide grants of up to $3.0 million over terms of up to three years for projects that address industry problems in tropical health and medicine, including: models of care; and, tropical and northern agriculture including animal and plant improvement and sustainability. Applications for the funding round close on 22 May 2017.

National Positioning Infrastructure Program—Satellite-Based Augmentation System (SBAS) test

The Australian Government, through Geoscience Australia, has invested $12.0 million over two years, from 2016–17 to test a Satellite-Based Augmentation System in Australia. The Satellite-Based Augmentation System uses space and ground-based infrastructure to improve the accuracy (from five metres to five centimetres), integrity and availability of basic Global Navigation Satellite System signals, such as those provided by the USA’s Global Positioning System. This kind of high–quality augmentation signal is critical to a range of applications and services currently being employed across industries internationally (notably in transport, agriculture, construction and mining) and in applications being developed for tomorrow, particularly in automation, augmented reality, location services and intelligent transport systems. The Satellite-Based Augmentation System allows the high-quality signal to be delivered anywhere in the nation, to anyone, at any time, making the technology especially pertinent to regional and remote areas of Australia and its maritime jurisdiction. The New Zealand Government is investing $2.0 million to test the Satellite-Based Augmentation System there, paving the way for a regional positioning technology capability.

The testing of the Satellite-Based Augmentation System in our region will allow us to investigate how the technology might enable growth, innovation and increased safety across agriculture, aviation, construction, maritime, mining, rail, road, spatial, and utilities.

Growth Fund

The Australian Government established a $155.0 million Growth Fund, to which it is contributing $100.6 million, over six years from 2013-14. The Growth Fund is supporting employees, businesses and the regions most affected by the closure of Australia’s car manufacturing industry. The Growth Fund is helping workers from Holden and Toyota to transition to new jobs, encourage automotive supply–chain firms to diversify to new products and markets, and to accelerate new business investment in sectors outside of car manufacturing in Victoria and South Australia. The Growth Fund includes the following elements:

  • the $90.0 million Next Generation Manufacturing Investment Programme to accelerate private sector investment in high value manufacturing in Victoria and South Australia;
  • the $20.0 million Automotive Diversification Programme to help automotive Australian supply chain firms capable of diversifying to find new markets;
  • the $15.0 million boost to the Automotive Industry Structural Adjustment Programme to extend the program until 30 June 2018. The program provides retrenched automotive workers with instant access to intensive employment support; and
  • the $30.0 million Skills and Training Initiative to help currently employed Holden and Toyota workers recognise their skills and train for new jobs. Holden and Toyota have contributed $15.0 million funding each.

National Resources Development Strategy—Exploring for the Future

Over four years from 2016–17, the $100.5 million exploring for the future program is investigating the potential of mineral, energy and groundwater resources in northern Australia and South Australia, both regions where the resource potential is relatively poorly known. The program aims to de–risk and renew the appetite for investment in mineral exploration, and help identify major new gas and minerals resources.

Exploring for the future will deliver a comprehensive prospectus of Australia’s resources through the collection and release of nationally significant geological data and information. Access to new and more detailed geological data and information will assist all participants in the resources sector increase the potential and level of exploration activities in Australia. The new pre–competitive data has the potential to stimulate investment and employment opportunities in minerals and energy exploration and resource development as well as development associated with groundwater resources.

Exploring for the future will provide a broad-regional understanding of resource potential across the entire northern Australia region. This broad understanding will be linked to a series of focussed regional minerals, energy and groundwater projects in areas with the greatest knowledge gaps.

Industry Growth Centres

The Industry Growth Centres Initiative provides $250.5 million over four years from 2016–17 to industry sectors with growth potential. There are six sectors with high growth potential where Australia has competitive strengths:

  • advanced manufacturing;
  • cyber security;
  • food and agribusiness;
  • medical technologies and pharmaceuticals;
  • mining equipment, technology and services; and
  • oil, gas and energy resources.

The Australian Government has established these Industry Growth Centres in a long-term partnership with key industry leaders to improve the productivity and competitiveness of these sectors, help firms grow and prosper, and generate economic growth and employment.

Industry Growth Centres focus on four key areas: (1) improving management and workforce skills; (2) improving collaboration between industry and research to commercialise ideas; (3) improving access to international markets and global supply chains; and (4) optimising the regulatory environment.

Two of these growth centres in particular—food and agribusiness, and mining equipment, technology and services—are primarily sectors operating in and benefitting regional areas. Other growth centres such as advanced manufacturing and cyber security are enablers for both urban and regional areas.

Industry Growth Centres are helping align industry and innovation policy and programs, including the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation and Cooperative Research Centres, to contribute to improving the productivity, competitiveness and innovative capacity of their sectors.

Entrepreneurs’ Programme

The Entrepreneurs’ Programme is the Australian Government’s flagship initiative for business competitiveness and productivity at the firm level. It provides practical advice and support for businesses, including: from people with private sector experience; co–funded grants to commercialise novel products, processes and services; funding to take advantage of growth opportunities; and connection and collaboration opportunities. This is building the capabilities of small and medium enterprises in key growth sectors. Services and grants are delivered through four elements: Business Management; Innovation Connections; Accelerating Commercialisation; and Incubator Support. Services are flexible, tailored and focused on value added advice and support. Services can be accessed by all Australian businesses, including those in regional Australia, subject to meeting the program’s eligibility requirements.

In line with the Australian Government’s priority on regional development, the Government has refocused the Incubator Support element to better facilitate entrepreneurial activity in the regions. This will enable the initiative to support the competitiveness of regional start-ups by strengthening new or existing incubator’s capabilities to support them. New features include additional facilitative support, combined with more generous funding arrangements and revised eligibility criteria to maximise outcomes for regional areas.

Centre for Defence Industry Capability

The Centre for Defence Industry Capability (CDIC) is a ten year initiative of the Defence Industry Policy Statement worth $230.0 million, from 2016–17. Its purpose is to help transform the relationship between the Department of Defence and the defence industry, and to fund defence industry development, critical skilling and export initiatives.

A national footprint has been established for the CDIC and comprises around 40 highly experienced business and innovation advisers and support staff. The CDIC is headquartered in Adelaide, with advisers located across all States and Territories to form a national advisory network which extends to regional areas.

The CDIC is coordinating tailored region-based engagements to bring together stakeholders in a united effort to deliver defence capability, grow the Australian industrial base and present a national position to overseas markets. The CDIC and the Department of Defence are working with States and Territories to:

  • involve them in industrial development activities and support for new and established defence companies;
  • involve region-based activities in trade shows, related industry events and communication strategies;
  • better connect businesses with opportunities in other sectors, markets and international opportunities; and
  • exchange information with region-based defence industry development agencies on current and emerging industrial capabilities to aid in the development and delivery of support programs and initiatives.

Radioactive Waste Management Facility—Community Benefit Programme

A $2.0 million Community Benefit Programme was made available in 2016–17 to the community around the shortlisted site of Wallerberdina Station in South Australia. This is in acknowledgment of the community’s contribution to the ongoing community consultation process to site a National Radioactive Waste Management Facility and the short-term disruption during the site identification process.

On 25 January 2017, Senator the Hon Matt Canavan announced that 11 projects in the Hawker and Quorn regions of South Australia will be funded (totaling $2.0 million) under the Australian Government’s Community Benefit Programme. The 11 approved projects will receive an additional $391,033 in cash and in-kind contributions creating a total investment of almost $2.4 million.

The projects selected all demonstrate social and economic benefits to the local region.

Major Projects Facilitation Agency

The Major Projects Facilitation Agency provides services to ensure that investors and developers are aware of all regulatory approval and compliance obligations that affect their project. The Major Projects Facilitation Agency is a ‘single point of entry’ into the Australian Government and works closely with State and Territory governments to complement their activities. It provides information and advice across all tiers of government and across jurisdictions. The Major Projects Facilitation Agency also supports red tape reform by monitoring regulatory impacts on development and identifying opportunities for improvement.

While the agency provides a national service, it has offices in Tasmania and Northern Territory. Under the Australian Government’s economic plan for Tasmania, the Major Projects Facilitation Agency’s Tasmanian office was established in 2014 and allocated $2.7 million in funding over three years to July 2017. The Major Projects Facilitation Agency’s Darwin office was established in January 2016 as part of the Our North, Our Future: White Paper on Developing Northern Australia initiative and was allocated $2.1 million in funding to July 2019.

Single Business Service

Consistent with the Australian Government’s Digital Transformation Agenda, the Single Business Service is putting the needs of Australian businesses first by simplifying and streamlining access to information and advice.

Funding has been provided to implement the initiative as part of the Entrepreneurs’ Programme. The Single Business Service initiative recognises that, in the past, businesses have struggled to access Australian Government services and navigate the wealth of Australian Government information available to find what they need or who to talk to. Businesses, including those in regional Australia, can now get information and help through one website (www.business.gov.au), one contact centre (13 28 46) and, AusIndustry’s national network to:

  • get a business up and running;
  • develop and commercialise ideas and products;
  • improve, innovate and grow a business; and
  • reach new markets.

Inspiring Australia—Science Engagement Programme

The Inspiring Australia—Science Engagement Programme is a $29.8 million initiative, announced under the Australian Government’s National Innovation and Science Agenda. This program runs over four years from 2016–17 to 2019–20. Specific elements within the program with regional implications include the following:

  • Inspiring Australia—Targeted Science Communications;
  • Regional Science Hubs;
  • Inspiring Australia—Citizen Science;
  • Inspiring Australia—Maker Projects;
  • Inspiring Australia—Sponsorship Grants for Student Science Engagement and International Competitions; and
  • Inspiring Australia—National Science Week.

Inspiring Australia—Targeted Science Communications

The Targeted Science Communications element provides funding of $4.1 million over four years from 2016–17 to 2019–20 to fund a range of science engagement activities that identify opportunities or needs that contribute to greater public engagement with the sciences, including among others those with a regional focus. Through arrangements with State and Territory governments and local organisations, programs are being developed and delivered to contribute to the advancement of Australian Government, State and Territory policy priorities and needs in regional Australia.

To ensure Australian communities are able to engage in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) programs throughout the year, the national network of Inspiring Australia officers is working with regional STEM hubs to build capacity in regional areas and encourage the development and promotion of combined and inter–linked community calendars of STEM activities. This initiative aims to support deeper community engagement in STEM and build connections to further learning and participation opportunities.

Regional Science Hubs

Over the next two years, Inspiring Australia will continue to expand its network of regional science, hubs across Australia to establish local collaborations of organisations that will work together to deliver science engagement events for their regions. This will create a platform through which as many Australians as possible can participate in science and gain access to quality science engagement activities. This initiative is increasingly realising and contributing to opportunities for alignment between State–based regional development authorities and local communities. There are currently 35 regional science hubs.

Inspiring Australia—Citizen Science

The Citizen Science Grants element of the Inspiring Australia—Science Engagement Programme provides funding of $4.0 million over four years from 2016–17 to 2019–20 for competitive grants rounds. This element aims to provide opportunities for the public to engage in science by participating in scientific research projects that include the collection or transformation of data in Australia. Participants in successful projects will be able to take part in scientific research projects by a range of means, including collecting and analysing data, formulating research questions and organising research teams. Participants will be empowered by learning new skills, forming new networks, and receiving updates on their participation in research projects. Projects could take place anywhere in Australia, including in regional areas or through the internet, enabling citizens to participate in science who may previously not have had the opportunity to participate in science to do so.

Inspiring Australia—Maker Projects

This program element is supporting development of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) skills in students and youth under 18 years of age in design, engineering and programming, through hands-on learning. The objective of the Maker Projects is to encourage practical skills, creativity and entrepreneurial thinking through the development of maker spaces and activities in schools and communities. This is with the view to reaching as many students as possible, including those in regional and disadvantaged areas. The funding of $4.0 million over four years from 2016–17 to 2019–20 will be provided in two streams: (1) for eligible Australian schools to purchase equipment required to establish a maker space for students to access and work on STEM-related activities; and (2) for Australian communities and regions to run events and education activities in partnership with industry for youth under 18 years of age.

Inspiring Australia—Sponsorship Grants for Student Science Engagement and International Competitions

This program element supports young Australians to develop skills and potential career opportunities in a Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) field through funding of $6.4 million over four years from 2016–17 to 2019–20. This is facilitated by providing grants to organisations (for example, schools and community groups) to sponsor eligible young Australians to participate in conferences, competitions and other STEM-related events both in Australia and overseas. This is of particular importance to students living in regional areas who may not otherwise have access to these types of STEM engagement opportunities or who may have difficulty funding the costs of travelling to these STEM events.

Inspiring Australia—National Science Week

Held during August of each year, National Science Week has a truly national reach with activities occurring in almost every corner of Australia, providing opportunities for people of all ages and backgrounds to engage in science, technology, engineering and maths. Funding of $6.8 million over four years from 2016–17 to 2019–20 supports activities that reach regional and remote Australia, including through local events as well as online activities for anyone who is not able to physically reach an event near them. Locally-organised National Science Week committees ensure diverse programs of activity are available in regions throughout Australia.

Women in STEM and Entrepreneurship Programme

Under the National Innovation and Science Agenda, the Australian Government is investing a total of $12.0 million of administered funding over four years, from 2016–17 to encourage more girls and women to choose to study Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) and pursue STEM–based and entrepreneurial careers. This includes:

  • $8.0 million over four years for a grant program to support outreach programs targeting girls and women to identify and celebrate STEM role models in science and research, promote entrepreneurship and foster an interest in STEM studies and careers;
  • $2.0 million over three years supporting the expansion of the Science in Australia Gender Equity (SAGE) project to cover more Australian science and research institutions; and
  • $2.0 million for a project that is drawing on the highly effective ‘Male Champions of Change’ model, focused on leaders in STEM-based industries and the research sector.

The $8.0 million grants program aims to support women in STEM and remove barriers that stop women taking part in STEM education and careers, including entrepreneurship. In the first round, a number of the supported projects were based in regional areas, which will benefit girls and women in those areas.

The Tasmania Jobs and Investment Fund

The Tasmania Jobs and Investment Fund provides $24.0 million over the three years from 2015–16 to 2017–18 to assist business investment projects leading to new jobs and growth in Tasmania. The Tasmania Jobs and Investment Fund is made up of $16.0 million from the Australian Government and $8.0 million from the Tasmanian Government. Grants are offered on the basis of one dollar for every two dollars matched by the successful applicants. The Tasmania Jobs and Investment Fund is a merit–based, competitive grants program that is delivered by AusIndustry.

Business Research and Innovation Initiative

The Business Research and Innovation Initiative Pilot provides $12.0 million over two years from 2016–17 in competitive grants for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to help the Australian Government to tap into leading–edge thinking and find the most innovative solutions to important challenges in public policy and government service delivery.

Entrepreneurs receive funding to create innovative products and services. Businesses retain the intellectual property and the right to commercialise the ideas in Australia or overseas.

Critical early–stage financial support to innovative startups and SMEs will help them test their new ideas and provide a path to market through developing a track record. The initiative also acts as a catalyst for SMEs with government as a customer thereby driving employment and economic growth.

Regional and rural Australia will be assisted through the solutions to current and future challenges. For example, a current challenge “improving transparency and reliability of water market information” will assist participants and farmers with the confidence to participate in Australia’s water markets and in turn contribute to the sustainable management of water resources across Australia.

Regional and rural SMEs are also eligible for and being assisted through the Business Research and Innovation Initiative with Feasibility Study recipients from areas such as Wollongong and North Bruny in Tasmania working on providing solutions to Government procurement challenges.

Research and Development Tax Incentive

The Research and Development (R&D) Tax Incentive is the Australian Government’s principal measure to encourage industry investment in R&D. It encourages industry to undertake R&D activities that might otherwise not be conducted because of an uncertain return from the activities, in cases where the knowledge gained is likely to benefit the wider Australian economy. The R&D Tax Incentive is a broad–based program available to all industry sectors and companies of all sizes, and provides assistance to those sectors prominent in rural and regional Australia.

The program is jointly administered by the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science and the Australian Taxation Office.

Tradex Scheme

The Tradex Scheme provides an upfront exemption from customs duty and goods and services tax on eligible imported goods that are intended for direct export or incorporated in other goods that are exported. This program is broad-based and available to all eligible applicants. The upfront exemption can provide significant cash flow advantages that can also assist the competitiveness of Australian business, including those operating in regional areas, in developing their export markets.

Anti-Dumping measures

The purpose of Australia’s anti–dumping system, which is administered by the Anti–Dumping Commission, is to give Australian producers the opportunity to compete with imports on a level playing field.

Anti–dumping measures are currently in force on certain imported goods that compete with goods produced by a number of industries that are located in regional Australia. These include the food processing industry located in Shepparton, Victoria, and the steel industry, which has its manufacturing hubs in regional New South Wales and South Australia.

Rum Jungle Rehabilitation Project

The Rum Jungle Rehabilitation Project provides $10.8 million in funding, from 2016–17 to 2019–20 to finalise a detailed plan for the environmental rehabilitation of the Rum Jungle mine site in the Northern Territory and its continued site management and maintenance activities. It also supports maintenance activities at the Rum Jungle Creek South site, a public recreation area.

National Carp Control Plan

The National Carp Control Plan is a $15.1 million three–year (2016–17 to 2018–19) project to support the development and implementation of a comprehensive national plan for controlling carp populations, including the release of a viral bio-control agent. The National Carp Control Plan involves consultations with stakeholders including governments, research agencies and local communities to examine the possibility of releasing a bio–control agent in conjunction with complementary control measures to create maximum impact on carp populations while minimising disruption to industries, communities and the environment.

Common carp are the worst freshwater aquatic pest in Australia with estimated economic impacts reaching $500.0 million per annum. The majority of this impact is felt in regional areas of Australia. The National Carp Control Plan will prevent degradation of rural and regional water supplies and prevent harm to river and wetland ecology while limiting the impact on local communities.

The Department of Industry, Innovation and Science works closely with the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources in the development of the National Carp Control Plan.

Questacon Smart Skills Initiative

Questacon Smart Skills is a free program developed for secondary school students that creates an awareness of technology, engineering and design thinking amongst young Australians. The program includes: virtual workshops and regional tours; in–school workshops for students; and professional development workshops for teachers. Complementing the Smart Skills program is the Questacon Invention Convention, a three day program that delivers intensive innovation and enterprise focused workshops in regional centres. The Invention Conventions involve partnerships with local and national enterprises to assist in fostering innovation. The Questacon Smart Skills Initiative has ongoing funding of $1.7 million per annum through the National Innovation and Science Agenda.

Questacon Virtual Excursions

Questacon reaches rural and regional Australia through its Schmidt Studio and its Virtual Excursions that are part of the Questacon Smart Skills Initiative program, which involves one hour hands–on workshops covering topics including environmental science, physics of flight and the innovation process. These videoconference workshops are designed for students in primary and secondary school and are an effective means for schools who have limited opportunities due to their location.

Shell Questacon Science Circus

The Shell Questacon Science Circus is an award–wining partnership program between Questacon, the Australian National University and Shell currently in its 32nd year. The Science Circus program tours nationally, returning to the same communities every few years.

The Science Circus facilitates and hosts a temporary science centre in regional and remote areas, presents in–school science shows to pre–primary, primary and secondary school students and families, and facilitates teacher professional development workshops. The team of presenters consists of up to 16 students studying towards a Master of Science Communication Outreach at the Australian National University. The program has ongoing funding of $150,000 per annum through the National Science and Innovation Agenda.

Travelling Exhibitions

Questacon tours travelling exhibitions to a range of regional and metropolitan venues across Australia, fulfilling Questacon’s national role and responsibility of providing access to hands–on informal learning experiences outside the centre of Canberra. The interactive exhibitions are developed in–house by Questacon and provide engagement for all ages. The travelling exhibitions provide a range of size, topics and complexity options suitable for most venue requirements. Travelling exhibitions, as part of Questacon’s core business activity, are funded through ongoing Questacon departmental appropriation.

Teacher Development Programmes

Questacon delivers a broad range of accredited programs to pre-service, casual and registered teachers through the national outreach programs and through stand-alone activities. The programs build confidence, skill and content knowledge in teachers in the delivery of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) activities in the classroom. The STEM X Academy is an intensive five-day program delivered each January in partnership with the Australian Science Teachers Association and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation that joins teachers with researchers to develop new activities for the classroom. Teacher development, as part of Questacon core business activity, is funded through ongoing Questacon departmental appropriation.

Square Kilometre Array Project

The Australian Government is a partner in a ten nation project to establish the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) Observatory, which will operate radio telescopes with unparalleled scientific and technical capabilities. The telescopes will be co-hosted in Australia (which will host the SKA ‘low’ frequency element) and South Africa (which will host the SKA ‘mid’ frequency element), with the global headquarters in the United Kingdom. As part of the National Innovation and Science Agenda announced in December 2015, the Australian Government announced $293.7 million over ten years from 2016–17 to further support Australia’s involvement in the SKA project. The project is currently in its pre-construction design and engineering phase, with construction currently scheduled to commence in 2019.

The Australian elements of the SKA will be sited in the remote Murchison district in the Mid West region of Western Australia, with support and computing facilities in Geraldton and Perth. Constructing and operating the SKA-Low telescope will generate a variety of benefits for the region, including economic activity, employment and skill development opportunities. The traditional owners of the SKA–Low site—the Wajarri Yamaji—will be amongst the local beneficiaries. Negotiations for an Indigenous Land Use Agreement for the site are currently underway.

The Australian Government is partnering with the Western Australian Government to enable the SKA project in Australia. The State and Australian governments are actively engaging with a range of regional stakeholders including Indigenous communities, pastoralists, local government, regional development agencies and local business. The Australian SKA Office also meets twice a year with its Regional Stakeholders Group. The purpose of these meetings is to discuss the progress of the SKA project and any related issues such as infrastructure, opportunities for education and industry development.

Onshore Gas Social and Economic Research Fund

The Onshore Gas Social and Economic Research Fund provides scientific and independent research so that Australians can form their own views of the social, economic and environmental impacts and benefits of gas projects based on local data and regional characteristics. Addressing community and land holders concerns about the impacts of onshore gas is essential for the development of the gas industry.

In 2014–15, the Australian Government invested $1.5 million in the expansion of the Gas Industry Social and Environmental Research Alliance (GISERA) from Queensland into New South Wales. The New South Wales Government, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and key industry players matched this funding. The Australian Government is providing $4.0 million in funding to CSIRO over four years from 2016–17 to further expand the alliance, becoming the Onshore Gas Social and Economic Research Fund, to regions where unconventional gas activity is occurring or has the potential to be developed.

GISERA’s research program includes: research on surface and ground water; greenhouse gas footprint; agricultural land management; terrestrial biodiversity; marine environment; and socio–economic impacts and opportunities. GISERA’s research independence is ensured through the strong governance framework, which includes project approval from Regional Research Advisory Committees and undergoing CSIRO’s peer review process. All research is available on GISERA’s website: gisera.org.au.

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