Queensland eyes COVID-19 recovery to be partly driven by innovation investments

In handing down the 2021-22 Budget, the Queensland government has announced that part of the recovery from COVID-19 will be off the back of investments that 'foster innovation'.

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Queensland government has handed down the 2021-22 Budget, announcing that "fostering innovation" will remain one of its key focus areas for the state as it continues to recover from the coronavirus pandemic.

"Innovation is a key driver of long-term economic growth, particularly in developed economies such as Queensland," the Budget papers [PDF] stated.

"The significant direct economic benefits and 'spill-over' effects of innovation provide a clear rationale for governments to foster research and development, initial commercialisation, and the widespread diffusion and adoption of innovative ideas, technologies, and practices.

"Importantly, innovation is clearly recognised in Queensland's Economic Recovery Plan as a key factor in opening up opportunities in existing and new markets, and making Queensland more globally competitive."

To deliver on that, the Queensland government said it will support small and medium businesses through the AU$100 million Business Investment Fund that will be managed by Queensland Investment Corporation. It aims to support SMBs that have a proven product; are seeking capital to expand or restructure operations, enter new markets, or finance significant acquisition; and are creating Queensland-based jobs.

A further AU$7.7 million will be provided to deliver tranche three of the Government Science Platform, which aims to make data more accessible to support government, industry, research, and the community to respond to "complex" environmental challenges.

The 2021-22 Budget also revealed AU$11 million will put towards enhancing cybersecurity across the Queensland government, but did not provide any further details. 

See also: REvil ransomware to blame for UnitingCare Queensland's April attack

The latest Budget comes six months after the Queensland government delivered its delayed 2020-21 Budget due to the pandemic.  

Net debt in 2020-21 came in at AU$15.8 billion, around AU$9.7 billion lower than what was projected in the last Budget. The government attributed part of that to its Savings and Debt Plan announced last July.

Under the Savings and Debt Plan, the state government aims to achieve savings of AU$3 billion over four years to 2023-24 by identifying opportunities where savings can be achieved. During 2020-21, the state government saved AU$750 million under the plan. Some of the specific savings were attributed to reducing 101 social media accounts across government and saving AU$17.7 million over four years in IT contracts, including savings in telecommunications contracts.

A further AU$750 million will be realised in 2021-22, the Queensland government said.

Further, the Queensland Budget highlighted that AU$120.5 million will be directed to Queensland Health so it can invest in tech solutions that "assist the transformation of healthcare delivery and mitigate the risk of digital infrastructure failure", as well as improve the service at rural and remote sites. Separately, AU$5 million will be invested in new software development projects to help Queensland Ambulance enhance patient care.

Read more: Queensland launches new COVID-19 check-in app

Up to AU$12 million in additional funding over three years will be used for the ongoing Mobile Black Spot Program, which aims to improve telecommunication coverage in regional and rural parts of the state. The government has also invested AU$1 million to develop options to improve digital connectivity for regional communities and businesses.

For Queensland Police, a total of AU$156 million has been aside. Of that, AU$11.3 million will be for IT, AU$3.7 million for Queensland Fire and Emergency Services information and communication systems and equipment, and $2.7 million for mobile capability and the development of new applications for QLiTE mobile tablet devices.

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