Objective 4.1

Innovation in exports and the shift to digital is supported and promoted

The Government and industry agree our companies will need to be agile and adaptable to benefit from changes in the way services are delivered globally.

Industry highlighted the large number of advanced and innovative SMEs and start-ups in Australia’s mining Technology services, FinTech and health services sectors. These firms have well-defined technical services offerings, often for digital delivery. However, some firms need support to protect and commercialise their ideas.

Accelerators, incubators and other cluster development initiatives play an important role in supporting innovation, including in regional centres. They improve commercialisation skills for entrepreneurs and increase their engagement in markets domestically and internationally.

Industry representatives outlined that COVID-19 had severely affected face-to-face services delivery. The transition to remote delivery is critical for firms to survive and recover from the pandemic. They suggested the Government assist in identifying and accelerating the adoption of existing technologies in new ways for this purpose, helping position Australia at the forefront of digital service delivery in coming out of the COVID-19 generated economic downturn.

Beyond COVID-19, online service technologies increase efficiency, reduce both production and transaction costs, and deliver additional capabilities. But they also bring new risks. New business and regulatory practices need to be developed to manage liabilities associated with digital rather than face-to-face transactions, from procurement procedures to cyber security. It will be important for Government to play a leading role in this process.

FinTech industry representatives considered the amount of research and development (R&D) spending by business and governments in Australia to be a key issue. In 2015-16, Australia spent 1.88 per cent of GDP on R&D, well below the OECD average of 2.38 per cent. Existing conservative capital investment coupled with COVID-19 has heavily impacted innovative services sectors.

Health industry representatives noted that a healthcare rebate model for domestic health services was the biggest enabler of exports. The right model that supports innovation in services in the domestic setting provides health services firms with opportunities to improve their offerings in Australia before taking them overseas.

Creative industry representatives noted some creative sectors, such as video game development, were excluded from the tax offsets and funding available to the film sector despite the global video game market being worth around three times that of film and TV. While Australia has strong capacity in video game development, the size of our industry lags far behind benchmark countries like the UK and Canada. A strong videogame industry also helps the development of technical skills that support digital exports more broadly.

Indigenous business representatives noted the opportunities to commercialise Indigenous knowledge in conjunction with Traditional Owners, such as traditional land-use practices to improve infrastructure development and reduce the impacts of natural disasters.

The Government wants to see Australia become a leading digital economy by 2030. To that end, we are committed to supporting innovation and the shift to digital in the services sector.

COVID-19 has resulted in major changes to the delivery of services for industry and governments. We are working to adapt delivery methods to assist industry, especially within remote regions.

The Government already funds six Industry Growth Centres in highly productive and strategic sectors in Australia. The Growth Centres help SMEs commercialise products, build business skills and engage markets. One of those Growth Centres is the Australian Cyber Security Growth Centre (AustCyber) which works to align and scale Australian cyber security innovation across industry, industry groups, the research community and governments. This includes enhancing Australian industry’s strengths in building ‘protection stacks’ – the basic infrastructure that protects an organisation’s IT networks and systems.

The Government remains a strong supporter of the Cooperative Research Centres (CRC) Program, which provides grant funding to support industry led research collaborations commercialising cutting-edge research. There are currently 28 active CRCs (funded for up to 10 years), and 112 active CRC Projects (funded for up to three years) working across areas including advanced manufacturing, agriculture, construction, cyber security, digital services, energy, health and mining.

The Government supports the role RegTech can play in promoting regulatory compliance, as part of our broader agenda to grow Australia’s FinTech sector.

In 2018 the Government provided funding to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) to promote Australia as a world leader in the development and adoption of RegTech solutions for the financial services industry. ASIC has used this funding for initiatives focused on the potential use of technology to help businesses deal with the conduct of business compliance issues, thereby promoting better outcomes for consumers and market integrity. These initiatives build on ASIC’s existing engagement and collaboration approach in promoting the potential of RegTech to financial firms and the development of a series of RegTech initiatives.

ASIC’s Innovation Hub also provides practical support to startups and scaleups as they navigate Australia’s financial regulatory system including through informal assistance and guidance.

In response to COVID-19, the Government introduced temporary telehealth items to the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS). This complements existing MBS telehealth items which have been available since 2011, including remote health monitoring and diagnosis in relation to sleep studies and telehealth video services to rural and remote communities.

Prior to COVID-19, the Government had already began working with stakeholders on longer term arrangements for the use of telehealth through the development of the Primary Health Care 10-Year Plan and implementing recommendations of the MBS Review Taskforce.

The Government will continue to work with industry on ways to support innovation and the shift to safe and effective digital health services through appropriate mechanisms.

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