Industry figures have reacted positively to the Federal Government’s National Innovation and Science Agenda, unveiled on 7 December by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

The measures announced under the Agenda have been designed to transform Australia’s economy and drive prosperity and competitiveness, according to Industry, Innovation and Science Minister, Christopher Pyne.

“Innovation and Science are two sides of the same coin, and this Agenda will bring them both together: driving jobs, growth and investment and igniting a national ‘can-do’ attitude,” said Pyne. The Minister announced various measures to support innovative businesses, grow private sector investment in research commercialisation, and increase the flow of venture capital to high potential start-ups.

“We’ll ensure our best ideas are realised by co-investing in the $200m CSIRO Innovation Fund and $250m Biomedical Translation Fund,” Pyne said. “These funds will support private investment in spin-offs and startups to develop and commercialise promising outcomes from Australia’s research. We’ll invest a $8m in a network of incubators helping start-ups get the resources, knowledge and networks they need to take their ideas to the world.”

Industry leaders were broadly supportive of the Agenda. AMTIL CEO Shane Infanti noted a number of positive initiatives in the Agenda, though he stressed that more support was needed in other areas to assist companies seeking to mature their businesses and sustain their growth.

“We see it all the time. Research is great, collaboration and innovation are good, but commercialisation is poor,” said Infanti. “Let us not forget that generally speaking we are still a manufacturing nation predominantly made up of SMEs. The challenge for Government programs and assistance measures is how they will help small companies transform into medium companies, and how we create large companies from medium-sized ones.

“Innovation, investment, skills development and research are the starting point. The initiatives announced in the Innovation Statement will be beneficial to many SMEs and start-ups. However, just as much time, effort and resources are required at the commercial end to open doors, develop export opportunities, generate business and engage in local and international supply chains. Sometimes this is lost when the allocation of funding is made.”

The Ai Group welcomed measures aimed at promoting an innovative culture; facilitating investment in early-stage capital; encouraging business-research collaboration; boosting skills; and leveraging public sector procurement and information to support private sector innovation. Ai Group Chief Executive Innes Willox said “The National Innovation and Science Agenda (NISA) announced today sets out decisive and positive steps towards creating the economy and jobs of the future.”

John Pollaers, the Chairman of the Australian Advanced Manufacturing Council, emphasised measures that would benefit the manufacturing industry in Australia, describing the Agenda as “the start of a very productive journey for the Australian economy and for job creation”.

“This statement of public policy is the most substantial recognition we have seen that advanced manufacturing is the future face of Australian industry,” said Pollaers. “The emphasis on improving research-industry collaboration, creating a more positive culture of entrepreneurship, as well as the focus on bringing some of our taxation rules into the 21st Century, are in line with many of the things we have been asking for.”

Shadow Industry Minister Kim Carr also applauded sections of the Agenda, including: increased support to promote science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) skills; tax incentives for angel investors and new arrangements for the Early Stage Venture Capital Limited Partnerships; support for incubators and accelerators and global innovation engagement; and moves to improve innovation governance and foster innovative new businesses by challenging them to meet government procurement priorities. However, he voiced concern that the policy does not go far enough.

“There is almost nothing in this statement to support jobs in existing industries, such as advanced manufacturing and the new industries that would be fostered by the stronger venture capital sector Labor’s $500m Smart Investment Fund would support,” said Carr.

Minister Pyne said the Agenda would introduce new arrangements to encourage collaboration between researchers and industry, including streamlining and refocussing a greater proportion of research block grant funding toward collaboration, with an addition $127m in funding.

“Improving funding incentives and fast-tracking collaborative research grants will encourage universities to partner with industry; and a new CRC round will open in February 2016. We will provide long-term funding certainty for the critical national research infrastructure needed for cutting-edge science and to retain our top scientific talent.”

Over the next decade, the Government will provide $520m for the Australian Synchrotron, $294m for the Square Kilometre Array, while the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS) will receive $1.5bn.

Pyne said the Agenda’s $36m Global Innovation Strategy would support businesses and researchers to collaborate with their global counterparts on research with landing pads established for Australian entrepreneurs and start-ups in Tel Aviv, Silicon Valley and three other key locations. The country’s future skills base would be shored up through a $99m investment in programmes to boost digital literacy and skills in STEM amongst young Australians.

“The Agenda will also commit $13m to increasing opportunities for women in research, STEM industries, start-ups and entrepreneurial firms,” Pyne said. “Successful grassroots initiatives like National Science Week will also continue to involve communities around Australia in the wonder and excitement of scientific discovery.”

Pyne said science and innovation would be at the heart of the Government’s policy settings with a new Innovation and Science committee of Cabinet, and the newly established Innovation and Science Australia acting as an independent advisory board.

“The release of the Agenda is just the beginning. The next step will be a national discussion around this new way of thinking and doing, and the importance of innovation and science to our future. We will highlight the successes to date and inspire all Australians to be involved in shaping our future and harnessing the potential of our ideas.”