Budget 2014: NICTA on its own in two years

Summary:The Australian federal government's funding for NICTA will cease in mid-2016, leaving the research body to seek full private funding to survive.

The Abbott government announced in its budget today that it will maintain the funding announced by former Treasurer Chris Bowen in 2013 for National ICT Australia (NICTA), but after the 2015-16 financial year, the research agency will need to be fully funded by the private sector.

A total of AU$84.9 million will fund NICTA for the next two years, with the Department of Communications and the Australian Research Council equally contributing to the AU$42.8m in funding for this year, and AU$42m to fund the agency in 2015-16.

"It was always expected that funding from the private sector would play an increasingly important role in supporting NICTA's operations," Minister for Communications Malcolm Turnbull said in a statement.

A number of NICTA projects have received commercial backing over the past two years, with NICTA itself scoring an AU$18m contract with the US government to protect the software used to operate unmanned and autonomous drones.

"NICTA's rapid growth in commercial revenue, through its partnerships with domestic and overseas firms, shows it can draw funding from a wider range of sources," Turnbull said.

In order to fund itself beyond mid-2016, the government said it expects NICTA to "pursue" funding via private sector investments and research grants.

The federal government is not the sole public contributor to NICTA's finances, with state governments across Australia also funding it. However, cuts earlier this year by the Victorian government forced NICTA to axe 30 research positions.

In addressing the cuts, Turnbull said that NICTA delivers approximately one in four of Australia's IT PhD students each year.

"By making the right choices today, we are creating a stronger economy for tomorrow," he said.

Topics: Government : AU, Emerging Tech, Start-Ups

About

Chris started his journalistic adventure in 2006 as the Editor of Builder AU after originally joining CBS as a programmer. After a Canadian sojourn, he returned in 2011 as the Editor of TechRepublic Australia, and is now the Australian Editor of ZDNet.

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