Deputy Premier Hendy Cowan says Western Australia is well-placed to benefit from the Federal Government’s new innovation policy.
The Prime Minister, John Howard, yesterday announced the Backing Australia's Ability program, worth $2.9 billion over five years.
The program calls on the States, business and research institutions to spend $6 billion over the same period to attract its grants and incentives.
Mr Cowan said the package would deliver much-needed funding to science and technology and research and development and complement State Government funding.
It dovetailed with the State Government’s own push to promote science and technology, as outlined in its policy launch earlier in the campaign.
Mr Cowan said Western Australia had been involved in the development of the Innovations Summit and the resulting Innovation Summit Implementation Group which has had a significant contribution to this policy and was already committed to just such a program.
“WA was the first State - in 1997 - to have a science and technology policy,” he said.
“Created and driven by the Department of Commerce and Trade, this policy is already reaping dividends, including the creation of a network of Centres of Excellence.
“The WA Government is committed to centres in all areas of scientific and technological research. Indeed, we were among the first to adopt a Centre of Excellence program, bringing together scientists, technologists and business people to carry out industry focused research.
“In the past five years the Government has committed $18 million to 25 such centres that have been established or are about to be set up.
“The Department of Commerce and Trade is working to further the program which has been successful in enhancing the capacity of WA universities to conduct world class science and technology activities.”
Mr Cowan said the Government was also anxious to boost skills in research and development in small to medium-sized businesses.
“We are also supporting moves to increase the rate of commercialisation of research in biotechnology in the State,” he said.
“It is a major investment, but one which will provide some very healthy dividends. With the support of Backing Australia’s Ability there is scope to further enhance this area of research and development.
“The Federal Program sits well with our progressive policies to ensure that Western Australia will become a knowledge hub.
“An important aim of the Commonwealth’s policy is to retain key people in all areas of science and technology within Australia. In Western Australia we have already started down that path.
“We are only too well aware that we must not only develop a body of people with knowledge, we must ensure that they stay in Western Australia.”
Mr Cowan said the WA Government had recently negotiated for the international communications company Motorola to set up an advanced software engineering centre in Perth.
The research and development facility will be built adjacent to the University of Western Australia’s campus at Nedlands.
“This will continue our push to develop Western Australia as a world-standard centre of telecommunications excellence, which is already evidenced by companies based here, such as ERG, Intellect Working Systems and, more recently, SCI from the USA,” the Deputy Premier said.
“Not only will the addition of the Motorola Software Engineering Centre help to meet the demand for IT graduates, it will also encourage our graduates to stay in Perth.
“All our tertiary institutions will be able to collaborate with a leading multi-national in the fields of telecommunications and micro-electronics.
“It is a unique opportunity for world-class course delivery and research. It will enhance the ability of universities ability to deliver leading edge graduates.”
Mr Cowan said WA’s achievements in areas of innovation were evidenced by such initiatives as Technology Park at Bentley, the soon-to-be-opened Australian Resources Research Centre, medical research infrastructure funding, the Scitech Science and Discovery Centre and a number of joint initiatives with the CSIRO, including the Strategic Institute for Research into the Marine Environment.
“The Department of Commerce and Trade has provided significant input into the Federal initiative, staring with last year’s Innovation Summit and the subsequent committees and other forums.
“Now it is up to the State to take advantage of the opportunities being offered by Backing Australia’s Ability. We are ready to do just that.”
Peter Jackson 9222-9595