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Innovation Nation: CSIRO Reprieve In National Innovation and Science Agenda

Canberra, Australian Capital Territory (ACT), Australia, Australasia
Canberra, Australian Capital Territory (ACT), Australia, Australasia

CANBERRA – The Turnbull Government has unveiled a $1.1 billion “innovation and science agenda,” returning previous budget cuts to the CSIRO, offering tax incentives for business risk, overseas “landing pads” for Australian entrepreneurs and further protecting Australia from cyber-attacks.

There will be 24 new measures running across nine ministerial portfolios in the areas of tax, business, science, education, computing technology and immigration.

In Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s first major economic statement, he has declared he wants a cultural change that “backs good ideas and learns from talking risks and making mistakes”.

That includes government, which will be expected to lead by example and break down barriers for startups and elevate innovation and science to the heart of government decision making.

The Prime Minister will chair a new cabinet committee to co-ordinate all research and science spending across government.

Australian businesses will be encouraged to fail, and learn from that failure, with changes to insolvency laws.

The default bankruptcy period will be reduced from three years to one, while directors in financial difficulty will be offered a “safe harbour” from personal liability for insolvency trading.

Entrepreneurs and small startup businesses will be encouraged through new tax breaks for early stage investors. They’ll receive a 20 percent tax offset based on their investment and be exempt from capital gains tax.

Early stage venture capital investment will also get a 10 percent tax offset.

“Open data” will be encouraged in government and a $30 million new cyber security Growth Centre will be established to kick start business opportunities in Australia’s cyber security industries.

Australia’s premier science agency CSIRO, which was hit by a $110 million funding cut on the 2104 budget, has got a reprieve, through more funding designed to commercialise research. There is a $200 million CSIRO Innovation Fund, $70 million of which is new money.

There will also be a $20 million expansion of the agency’s accelerator program to bring in other public-funded organisations to prepare research for commercialisation.

University research will be streamlined and the Government, like the Opposition, is getting behind computer coding classes, promising $51 million over five years to get young students computer literate.

From next July, all Year 5 and Year 7 students will be able to undertake computing and coding challenges and there will be an annual “cracking the code” competition for students from years 4 to 12.

Women will be encouraged to stay in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) related careers through a $13 million investment over five years, including an expansion of the Science in Australia Gender Equity pilot.

At a cost of $11 million, five “landing pads” will be established in California’s Silicon Valley, Tel Aviv and three other locations to support entrepreneurial Australians, while $22 million is seed funding will assist Australia collaborations with international researchers.

A new entrepreneur visa class will be established in November 2016 to attract the best and brightest talent and skills to Australia. The ideas must be financially backed by a third party.

The Prime Minister has assured all of the measures will be monitored for success.

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