Innovation funding scarce in ​NSW Budget

The New South Wales government has handed down its 2016-17 Budget, injecting billions of dollars into the state's infrastructure and a handful of cash towards research, STEM studies, and innovation.
Written by Asha Barbaschow, Contributor

The New South Wales government has delivered a Budget centred on infrastructure, handing out AU$14 million of its AU$13.7 billion education spend to research and science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) studies, as well as AU$25 million to innovation.

The government, in collaboration with TAFE NSW and the state's universities, will be establishing the Sydney School of Entrepreneurship (SSE) with a AU$25 million injection to foster the ideas that lead to startups.

"Entrepreneurship is critical to driving innovation and that is why it's so important we educate and encourage young people to create new businesses focused on the global market," Treasurer Gladys Berejiklian said.

"This school will foster collaboration and use the expertise within our world-class universities across a range of disciplines. We want to help create a critical mass of informed, dynamic, and enthusiastic professionals with the practical skills required to thrive as an entrepreneur.

"The SSE will foster the emergence of small innovative companies with the potential for rapid growth -- and that means job creation."

Berejiklian hopes the SSE will provide an opportunity for students and the business sector to develop and implement new ideas that ultimately lead to startup ventures.

The NSW government has also given AU$14 million to fund high-quality, high-impact research projects and provide ongoing support for critical national-scale research infrastructure, which includes AU$6 million to encourage and promote STEM engagement.

The AU$14 million comes from the Research Attraction and Acceleration Program which was established to encourage and support high-quality, high-impact research, and increase innovation in the state's R&D system.

The NSW Data Analytics Centre (DAC) has also received AU$17 million over four years to continue its work in providing data-driven insights to help inform policy making.

The DAC was created under Minister for Innovation and Better Regulation Victor Dominello, who first announced the state's plans to create the whole-of-government Data Analytics Centre in August last year, saying at the time that data is one of the greatest assets held by government, but when it is buried away in bureaucracy, it is of little value.

Since then, Dominello has introduced a bill [PDF] that requires each of the agencies and state-owned amenities to give his department their data within 14 days; appointed an advisory board charged with overseeing how the state government uses that data; and has kicked off a data analytics project in South Sydney to determine who lives where and with whom.

The state government has also offered up AU$5 million for the Mobile Blackspot Program.

Over the next three years, AU$24 million will be spent on the program by the state government, which it said includes AU$15 million for Round 2 to match Australian government contributions, in a bid to encourage telecommunication providers to invest in regional areas where there are mobile communication blackspots.

The first round of mobile blackspot funding was opened in December 2014, with Telstra and Vodafone Australia securing AU$185 million in government funding to build or upgrade 499 mobile towers across Australia.

The government then announced the second round of the program in early December, providing a further AU$60 million to those participating; and at the end of last month, the Coalition pledged to spend an additional AU$60 million to fund a third round of the mobile blackspot program to build or upgrade a further 900 mobile towers if re-elected during the July 2 federal election.

The state government has also injected AU$415 million into Service NSW, the state's one-stop shop for service delivery.

The state will kick off the new financial year with virtually zero debt, a surplus of AU$3.4 billion from 2015-16, and a forecast 2016-17 surplus of AU$3.7 billion.

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