Communications Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, today commemorated National ICT Australia (NICTA) for its contribution to innovation in the country and on the world stage, despite the federal government discontinuing financial support for the research centre from 2016.
Turnbull said at NICTA’s technology showcase event, Techfest, that the centre is getting international attention from governments of the highly technological and developed world. He highlighted that German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, made it a priority to visit to NICTA headquarters at the Australian Technology Park in Sydney during the G20 summit.
“Nobody’s perfect but Germany is clearly one of the more successful in that area [of technology innovation]… and that [NICTA] is what she wanted to see in Sydney,” he said. “It underlines the fact that our future depends on innovation, technology, and everything we do – being learner, faster, smarter, more effective. And that applies to business, academia and government.”
Turnbull also commemorated NICTA on its more than $100 million worth of commercialisation of spinouts including machine learning tool Ambiata and cloud tool Yuruware.
“NICTA has now spun out 15 companies, 11 over the past four years. This is innovation made practical and given real force and effect in the business world. So I want to congratulate all of those involved.”
NICTA’s more than 410 technology PhD graduates and more than 300 PhD candidates it trains is also an “extraordinary achievement” to Australia’s prosperity in terms of skills needed in industry, Turnbull said.
“At the moment, only half of Year 12 students are studying science, down from 94 per cent 25 years ago. We have got to reverse a trend away from STEM subjects, and NICTA is a very important part of that.
“NICTA is one of the most significant technology PhD training institutions in Australia, and it is unrivalled when it comes to linking PhD students and business. You [NICTA] should be proud,” he told Techfest attendees.
The Coalition government said in last year’s budget that it would stop funding NICTA from June 2016. At that time, Turnbull said that private sector funding would play an increasingly important role in supporting NICTA’s operations.
The Department of Communications and the Australian Research Council will each contribute $21.4 million in 2014–15 and $21.0 million in 2015–16 towards NICTA.
Speaking to CIO Australia at Techfest today, Turnbull simply said “budgetary considerations” were reason for the discontinued funding.
However, he was “confident NICTA will continue to evolve and remain Australia’s preeminent body for research, collaboration, technology training and research commercialisation”.