Queensland Budget boosts innovation spend to AU$405m

​The Queensland government has stumped up an additional AU$225.2 million for its Advance Queensland initiative in a bid to make the sunshine state the national innovation leader.
Written by Asha Barbaschow, Contributor

The Queensland government has allocated an additional AU$225.2 million towards its Advance Queensland initiative, ahead of its 2016-17 Budget to be handed down on Tuesday.

The latest funding announcement sees the total investment sit at AU$405 million, with Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk saying the extra cash will advance Queensland's new economy and create the "jobs of the future".

"I'm determined to make Queensland Australia's innovation leader, which is why I have dramatically increased our investment and broadened our focus to embrace opportunities across the economy," Palaszczuk said.

"Advance Queensland is key to our state's economic diversity. We are backing the innovators -- startups, small business, school kids, farmers, scientists, researchers, tradespeople, engineers, doctors, teachers -- because that will create a new era of opportunity for Queenslanders."

The additional funding has been split into four categories: Unlocking potential of business to innovate; growing our regions; harnessing existing strengths and fostering emerging opportunities; and building future generations.

Under the unlocking innovation banner, small businesses will receive AU$22.7 million as part of the Advancing Small Business Queensland Strategy, and AU$10 million will be invested to develop new technologies for business, in areas such as drones, big data, and the Internet of Things.

Regional Queensland will get AU$6 million for innovation hubs and AU$10 million for one centre at James Cook University in Cairns. AU$33.5 million will also be spent on connecting those in regional areas with support from Asia

"We know tourism is a key industry for Queensland, and we will work to secure more international air routes, create innovative tourism products, and drive digital connection," Palaszczuk said.

AU$3.9 million will be spent on what the premier called a "new agricultural economy"; AU$40 million is slated for an industry attraction fund; AU$9 million for industry accelerators; and AU$19.7 million for Queensland Biofutures 10-year roadmap and action plan.

The state will give AU$35 million to an integrated healthcare fund, AU$25 million for a clinical genomics service, AU$7.1 million for a global schools initiative, and AU$3.3 million on schools for the future.

"The Integrated Healthcare Fund will support hospitals in using new ideas to improve care at the same time as improving efficiency in health service delivery and the clinical genomics service supports cutting edge genomics research by research institutions including the University of Queensland, Berghofer QIMR, CSIRO, QUT, and Queensland Health," she said.

According to Palaszczuk, the global schools initiative will expand studies in Asian languages, new technology teaching programs, and enable schools to form partnerships across the globe. The schools of the future initiative is expected to encourage students to take up science, technology, engineering, and mathematics studies.

Palaszczuk first announced the state's AU$180 million Advance Queensland initiative in last year's budget, with AU$24 million to be used to give Queensland-based startups a boost.

As part of that startup funding, the state government launched Hot DesQ in April, an AU$8 million startup relocation program that aims to bring talent into Queensland for a six-month term.

At the time, Palaszczuk said the funds would be dispersed in grants of up to AU$100,000, with Hot DesQ participants immersed into existing startup communities in Townsville, Gold Coast, Ipswich, Sunshine Coast, Brisbane, Cairns, or Toowoomba, and given co-working space free of charge.

"As a government, we know that the real driver of economic change are entrepreneurs and ambitious businesses," the premier said previously.

"Every big corporate starts as an emerging business that took a chance. Startups can reshape entire industries through technology and business model innovation. They are vital to job creation and prosperity -- in fact studies have found that each technology job created leads to five additional jobs in other sectors."

In April, AU$4 million was set aside for a startup hub in Brisbane's Fortitude Valley, with the Steve Baxter-funded local startup group RiverCity Labs among the precinct's first tenants. Data61 has also committed as foundation partner for the initiative.

Earlier this year, the Queensland government awarded AU$10 million to 54 Queensland scientists in round one of the Advance Queensland Research Fellowships and PhD Scholarships programs to help drive innovation and attract highly skilled research leaders to the state.

Palaszczuk also signed an agreement with the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology, the government agency responsible for steering China's science and technology development that will see Queensland entrepreneurs and researchers taking part in placements within China's science and technology incubators, at a rate of eight per year, for the next three years.

Treasurer Curtis Pitt, who is also Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships and Minister for Sport, will hand down the remaining Budget items on Tuesday afternoon.

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