NSW hopes to tackle government problems under R&D action plan

By Shannon Jenkins

Wednesday January 27, 2021

(AAP Image/Dan Himbrechts)

The New South Wales government has launched a new action plan that aims to accelerate research and development in the state while encouraging businesses and researchers to solve key challenges government agencies face.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian on Monday said the new plan would utilise the “spirit of collaboration” that emerged during COVID-19 to support R&D across the state.

“The private sector, academia and the NSW government collaborated to unlock crucial supplies and to solve difficult problems on behalf of the people of NSW,” she said.

“R&D will be a powerful jobs creator during our economic recovery. For every dollar invested in R&D there can be an economic benefit of $14 in return.”

Parliamentary secretary to the premier Gabrielle Upton and an advisory council undertook an extensive public consultation process with businesses, academics, research organisations, government agencies, investors, not-for-profit organisations and peak bodies to shape the plan’s five recommended priority actions, which are:

  1. Launch a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program – provide competitive grants for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to find and commercialise innovative solutions to well-defined problems for government agencies.
  2. Boost open data – target the strategic release of new NSW government datasets so that businesses can improve their decision-making; entrepreneurs can build new businesses; and the government can solve complex challenges.
  3. Turbocharge precincts – develop precincts to attract national and global technology industries and investment, and drive collaboration between universities, research organisations, start-ups, scale-ups and SMEs, to commercialise R&D.
  4. Target strategic support for NSW universities – collaborate on research that drives future NSW strategic growth industries and research-led industry attraction, and better leverage commonwealth government research funding.
  5. Establish an R&D matchmaking platform – better connect research ‘sellers’ and ‘buyers’ and link researchers to research infrastructure and expertise.

Read more: Opinion: we must turn R&D toward more holistic outcomes

The report also presents 16 supporting actions, including the establishment of a new entity — R&D NSW — in the Department of Premier and Cabinet. The entity would comprise a number of groups that are already engaged in R&D activities across the state government, and would have whole-of-government responsibility and accountability for R&D activities and investment.

Another supporting action has called for the state’s Procurement Innovation Stream to be revised to enable: the awarding of larger contracts by increasing the threshold from $1 million to $5 million for prototypes; a follow-on commercial contract (valued at up to $5 million) if the prototype is successful; and outcomes-focused procurement through government co-design of products and services with innovators.

Advisory council chair David Gonski said the report has come at a critical time.

“The devastating impact of COVID-19 on investment in R&D and the downstream impacts on economic growth and job creation makes this task an urgent one,” he said.

“Decisive government action to attract and leverage investment, improve cross-sector collaboration and rapidly translate ideas into new products and services will be integral to our recovery from this crisis.”

The action plan has also recommended that the NSW government launch a program of R&D ‘missions’ aimed at solving long-term strategic challenges. These could include bushfire response, drought resilience, healthier and longer living, or the transition to renewable energies.

NSW chief scientist and engineer Professor Hugh Durrant-Whyte has described the missions as a “crucial” aspect of the plan.

Read more: CSIRO launches co-developed missions program to overcome Australia’s biggest challenges


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