New science body to run service delivery challenges

By David Donaldson

December 7, 2015

A new body called Innovation and Science Australia will help run a series of challenges with grants up to $1 million to help solve policy and service delivery problems faced by public servants.

Sitting as the public-service-originating counterpart to the Digital Marketplace prototype, the new Business Research and Innovation Initiative is part of the $1 billion Innovation Statement released on Monday.

The new statutory authority ISA will replace and redefine the role played by Innovation Australia, which currently oversees the registration of venture capital limited partnerships and monitors the the research and development tax incentive, among other responsibilities.

In an effort to use the public procurement dollar to spur innovation, the government will also run a business research and innovation initiative with a series of challenges to help solve policy and service delivery problems. As part of the initiative, entrepreneurs will receive funding to create new products with export potential, while retaining their intellectual property and the right to commercialise the ideas in Australia or overseas.

ISA will help nominate five priority areas on which businesses will be invited to submit proposals. The winners will receive grants of up to $100,000 to test their ideas over three to six months of development, and the most successful ideas may then be eligible for a further grant of up to $1 million to develop a prototype or proof of concept over the following 18 months. The initiative will launch on July 1, 2016.

Innovation and Science Australia will be chaired by venture capital veteran Bill Ferris, with Australia’s next Chief Scientist Alan Finkel as deputy chair. Its first task will be to review the existing research and development tax incentive program.

The new body will report to Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science Christopher Pyne and to the new innovation and science committee of cabinet, chaired by the Prime Minister.

Innovation and Science Australia's organisational hierarchy.
Innovation and Science Australia’s organisational hierarchy
ISA will publish its research and advice to promote public discussion, and will publicly advocate reforms on key issues such as:

  • innovation investment;
  • innovation, collaboration and skills;
  • delivering and operating research infrastructure;
  • how to better plan and use Australia’s investment in research and development.

Legislation will be introduced to establish the ISA effective from July 1, 2016, and Innovation Australia will begin the work of ISA in the interim.

The responsibilities of the authority the ISA will replace, Innovation Australia, include:

  • Registering, monitoring and revoking the registrations of venture capital limited partnerships and early stage venture capital limited partnerships;
  • Administration, monitoring and operation of the R&D tax incentive;
  • Strategic oversight to the entrepreneurs’ programme, which includes administration and monitoring of the accelerating commercialisation programme;
  • Administration and oversight of the cooperative research centres programme;
  • Monitoring ongoing projects under the a range of programs closed to new applications; and
  • Advising the Minister about the operation of relevant act and the Commonwealth’s income tax laws as they operate in relation to those acts.
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