Federal Budget 2019: funding ‘Innovation’, at least in name

By The Mandarin

April 2, 2019

Gone are the days when it felt like every new budget measure would have the word ‘innovation’ somewhere in its title. You might remember it as Malcolm Turnbull’s “Innovation boom”.

That doesn’t mean innovation has vanished from the budget entirely.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg’s first budget has funding for several new and expanded efforts to promote innovation in the Australian government, education and business sectors.

Innovation Games

In the measures it hopes to pass this week, the Morrison government will fund $3.6m over two years to trial a national Innovation Games.

“The Innovation Games will bring together small and medium businesses and students to solve real life, practical business issues.

“Up to 30 games will be held over the two-year trial period where businesses and students will work together to solve innovation, technology and/or digital challenges set by a corporate sponsor. This would improve collaboration between businesses and education institutions, and broaden employment prospects for students and graduates.”

Programs looking to leverage ‘innovative solutions’

  • National Leadership for Agricultural Innovation: Don’t call it a pork barrel, or jobs for mates, at least not until we know who’s been appointed to a new advisory board that will advise the government on agricultural innovation. The new body is a recommendation from an EY report commissioned by the government. $1m has been earmarked this year, building up to $2.9 million over three years.
  • Regional connectivity: Trials of innovative solutions for voice services in remote Australia are part of the $60m regional connectivity program. This is on top of the existing $160m previously allocated for the mobile black spot program.
  • Veterans’ employment: While the DVA is losing funding overall, there’s an extra $16.2 million for innovation grants to not‑for‑profit organisations to deliver innovative programs to support veterans to find meaningful employment.
  • Legal assistance: A new unified mechanism will be utilised to fund community legal assistance, Legal Aid, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services, coming into effect from July 2020. The government hopes this will encourage a more collaborative, innovative and effective legal assistance sector.
  • Hospital innovation: The community health and hospitals program was previously covered in MYEFO, and includes funding to establish centres of excellence, trial innovative approaches and provide for better integration of services and multidisciplinary care. Not clear how much of the $1.3 billion will actually go to trials and innovation.
  • Gene Technology: New money will be added to the existing National Gene Technology Scheme following its Third Review. The Scheme exists to protect people and the environment, whilst facilitating innovation and competitiveness for research and industry. An additional $4.4 million over four years will be used to work with states and territories on implementing the review’s recommendations and supporting the role of the Office of the Gene Technology Regulator.
  • Road Safety Innovation Fund: There’s a sizable package for improving road safety, with $12 million earmarked for an innovation fund to support road safety research, and development of new technologies and products to support that goal. The full package also includes additional funding for the Keys2Drive program, the establishment of an Office of Road safety, more for heavy vehicle safety, awareness initiatives and support to the Australian Road Research Board to assist local governments.
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