A Growth Centre by any other name…

With a change in government, invariably comes a change in policy.  In the case of the current government, one of these changes is the replacement of “Precincts” with an “Industry Growth Centre Initiative” that aligns with Australia’s Chief Scientist recommendations from his position paper, “Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics: Australia’s Future”.  The Department of Industry has identified areas where Australia is lagging behind other advanced countries in reforming our economies.   According to Department statistics, Australia ranks poorly in regards to overall competitiveness and only places 23 out of 25 OECD countries for business collaborating on innovation and last for business/research collaborations.

The Growth Centre initiative is the centrepiece of the Government’s new Industry Innovation and Competiveness Agenda which seeks to lift Australia’s performance by focussing on smart, high value export industries where we have competitive advantage not on financial dependence for ongoing prosperity.

In order to achieve these goals, the government will be establishing five non-profit Industry Growth Centres, with Industry leaders tapped to become Chairs of the Centres. This sector-based initiative is set to position Australia as a world leader to endure competitive pressures through collaboration and allow for the self-reliance and growth necessary to succeed in a globalised economy.  The sectors are:

  • Food and Agribusiness
  • Mining Equipment, Technology and Services
  • Medical Technology and Pharmaceuticals
  • Advanced Manufacturing
  • Oil, Gas and Energy Resources

Each Growth Centre will focus on regulatory reform, as well as access to markets and value chains with a concentration on improving skills and promoting collaboration and commercialising research.

The Industry Growth Centre Initiative allows for funding of $188.5 million over four years after which the Centres are expected to become self-sustaining. No business model has yet been flagged as to how this might be achieved without and whether it is indeed viable.

One Growth Centre per sector will complement, not compete with existing State and Territory innovation and collaboration programmes.  Similar systems are in places in the US, UK, Singapore and NZ. Although there will be a physical location for each of the Centres as determined by the board to allow for events such as board meetings and small management team meetings, there will be a footprint that is virtual around the country.  The Initiative also comprises an Industry Growth Project Fund, an Industry Growth Network as well as a Commercialisation Fund delivered through the Entrepreneur’s Infrastructure Programme.

When asked how this initiative differs from the similar “Precinct” system developed by the previous government, the Department stated that is sees both initiatives as having a common focus on collaboration between business and research, but with the Growth Centres having a more holistic and broader approach with less red-tape, links with supply chains and a “more defined scope”.

In relation to concerns about IP confidentiality, the Department has indicated that as part of the bidding process, participants need to be aware that information will become public.  It will be an “eyes wide open” approach primarily encompassing networking functions and showcasing.

And in regards to accountability for the Centres?  Each Centre will have a contract between itself and the Department that will centre around KPIs and deliverables.  There will be careful monitoring and remediation if necessary.

It is believed that the establishment of Industry Growth Centres will occur early next year with a staggered roll-out and funding will follow by the end of 2015.

Registration of your interest in the Expressions of Interest or in the Initiative can be made through the website at – Register your interest

Article written by Paula Moss, gemaker