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State budget a "missed opportunity" on innovation

Politics

A key recommendation of a scathing review of South Australian investment in innovation was not adopted in last week’s State Budget, despite Premier Jay Weatherill forecasting a strong response.

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A report by the Redfire Consulting Group released in March urged the consolidation of the commercialisation arms of the three local universities and the commercialisation of SAHMRI research, proposals the Premier endorsed.

Redfire also recommended the establishment of a new Government Innovation Agency – AccelerateSA – responsible for implementing relevant policy and early stage innovation programs, arguing current approaches led to conflict, duplication and inconsistencies within the bureaucracy.

“We are favourably disposed to a number of its recommendations, which we’ll outline in the budget,” Weatherill said at the time.

But the Opposition argues Labor “squandered an opportunity” to implement key findings of the review in the economic statement by refusing to consolidate Government innovation programs under one umbrella “to enable consistent, coordinated and integrated development and implementation of innovation policy”.

“The Government needs to immediately explain why they have ignored this key recommendation of the Redfire report and how they will efficiently spend our taxpayer dollars,” Opposition spokesman Corey Wingard told InDaily in a statement.

“Innovation is a growing sector of the economy and an important sector for SA to tap into, but these valuable funds can’t be wasted… if the Government does not have the right policy settings in place, then any funding for this sector will ultimately be futile.”

Acting Minister for Manufacturing and Innovation, Susan Close, said the Government was “generally convinced about the thrust and merits” of the Redfire report, with “many of the recommendations already delivered”.

The previously-announced establishment of a $10 million Early Commercialisation Fund and a $50 million Venture Capital Fund – direct recommendations of the report – were highlighted in the budget.

“We have also outlined an overarching Innovation for Jobs statement and brought the Science, Innovation and Information Economy portfolios under a single minister,” said Close.

“Work continues on the other recommendations and we will have more to say about them in the future.”

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