Australia’s industrial growth centers have increased jobs, wages and start-up turnover, but have had mixed success in boosting exports.
The hubs were set up with temporary federal funding that ran out, after the Albanian government failed to complete the funding in its first budget.
The Office of the Chief Economist has released an independent review of the centers the former federal government sat on for two years, along with new data that found they were helping new businesses grow.
The review found that hubs have helped make the economy more competitive, resilient and sustainable.
Consultants ACIL Allen found that Growth Centers “are aiming high and the scale of their impact is likely to be significant”.
But the roles and responsibilities of government in an industry-led initiative “present some challenges and have been confusing,” according to the study.
The review also said the Morrison government’s plan for independent centers to become self-sufficient – supported by funding from industry instead of taxpayers – was unlikely to work.
The industry sees a need for government to support the commercialization of ideas, as do other advanced economies.
Instead, the centers were allowed to allow any taxpayer funding already allocated to stretch for a few more years.
The centers cover six priority sectors: advanced manufacturing, cybersecurity, food and agribusiness, medical technology and pharmaceuticals, mining equipment, technology and services, and oil, gas and energy resources .
There is also a campaign commitment to add another, the Powering Australia Industry Growth Centre, to support the private sector innovation needed to move the electricity grid from fossil fuels to renewables.
The consultants found that a flexible, industry-led program can be a powerful tool and “clearly has a place in the innovation ecosystem”.
However, the funding envelope “is small compared to that of comparable international programs” such as the UK’s Catapult programme, according to the study.
An additional $1.5 billion modern manufacturing strategy from the coalition government offered greater funding opportunities.
New data found that industry growth centers “had positive impacts on revenue, wages and job growth for small and medium-sized businesses.”
But they had a mixed impact on export sales growth, the Office of the Chief Economist said.
Industry Minister Ed Husic has been contacted to comment on future funding.
Recent announcements have seen national science body CSIRO secure more funding to commercialize research.
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