Australian Budget 2019: AU$9b for tech and science

The Australian government has earmarked AU$9 billion in funding for tech and science, ranging from a space infrastructure fund to the national innovation games, to a Questacon expansion.

Investments to the tune of AU$9 billion in total across tech and science will see billions of dollars spanning space infrastructure, innovation games, R&D, and digital transformation in Australia.

"We are ... backing the industries of the future," Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said in his Budget speech on Tuesday night.

"We're investing AU$9 billion this year in science, research, and technology, including its commercialisation."

As part of this, the government will provide AU$19.5 million over four years to set up a Space Infrastructure Fund to support projects aimed at accelerating Australia's space industry. The investment will be driven by the Australian Civil Space Strategy 2019-2028.

"This means money on the ground to help triple the size of the Australian space sector to AU$12 billion and increase employment to 30,000 jobs by 2030," Industry, Science, and Technology Minister Karen Andrews said.

The AU$19.5 million will be divided between AU$2 million for "delivery of future world-class space manufacturing capability in New South Wales which will support the development of high-tech skills and new space objects"; and AU$6 million for a Mission Control Centre in South Australia.

The latter will "create a platform for SMEs and researchers to control small satellite missions, enabling real-time control and testing and the accelerated development of Australian satellite technology", Andrews said.

A AU$3.6 million funding injection over the next two years will then see the government trial the "Innovation Games" across Australia, with around 30 games to be held during the testing period.

"The Innovation Games will bring together small and medium businesses and students to solve real-life, practical business issues," the Budget documents explained.

"Businesses and students will work together to solve innovation, technology, and/or digital challenges set by a corporate sponsor. This would improve collaboration between businesses and education institutions, and broaden employment prospects for students and graduates."

Another science-centric initiative will see the government provide AU$15.1 million over the next three years to expand Canberra-based science and technology centre Questacon's "education and outreach activities".

Expenses under the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science; the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO); the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO); the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS); the Department of Education and Training; and the Australian Research Council (ARC) are expected to increase by 2.7 percent over the next year.

This includes research in the science services and innovation fund of AU$1.2 billion in 2018-19, AU$1.14 billion in 2019-20, AU$1.17 billion in 2020-21, AU$1.19 billion in 2021-22, and AU$1.2 billion in 2022-23; discovery in research and research training of AU$495 million in 2018-19, AU$508 million in 2019-20, AU$515 million in 2020-21, AU$527 million in 2021-22, and AU$538 million in 2022-23; and science and technology solutions of AU$354 million in 2018-10, AU$392 million in 2019-20, AU$370 million in 2020-21, AU$406 million in 2021-22, and AU$399 million in 2022-23.

Supporting science and commercialisation is expected to cost AU$234 million in 2018-19, AU$283 million in 2019-20, AU$280 million in 2020-21, AU$311 million in 2021-22, and AU$282 million in 2022-23; cross-sector research partnerships of AU$272 million in 2018-19, AU$286 million in 2019-20, AU$293 million in 2020-21, AU$298 million in 2021-22, and AU$303 million in 2022-23; and research capacity of AU$168 million in 2018-19, AU$191 million in 2019-20, AU$245 million in 2020-21, AU$259 million in 2021-22, and AU$401 million in 2022-23.

How much of the Budget becomes enacted remains to be seen, as the government is expected to call a May election this weekend.

Australian Budget 2019 Coverage