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Australia has USD1 billion plan to convert ideas into jobs

WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND (AP) – Australia’s government said yesterday it will spend more than USD1 billion on converting research ideas into commercial hits as it looks to improve the economy with an election looming.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said a new programme called Australia’s Economic Accelerator would focus on commercialising research in six areas: defence, space, minerals, food, medical products, and clean energy.

“The key policy challenge surrounds the so-called ‘Valley of Death’, where early stage research is frequently not progressed to later stages of development because of the risk and uncertainty about commercial returns,” Morrison said.

He said the new programme would help bridge that gap by investing in programmes with strong commercial potential. It will work in stages by providing lots of small grants initially and then fewer but more valuable grants in subsequent rounds of funding. It is worth AUD1.6 billion and is part of a larger AUD2.2 billion package.

Morrison was speaking at the National Press Club in Canberra, where he also reflected on the challenges he’s faced since winning the last election in 2019. “The past three years have been some of the most extraordinary that our nation has ever experienced,” he said. “Younger generations have never known anything like it. The succession of natural disasters – from drought to flood, fires, pestilence, a once-in-a-century global pandemic, the recession it caused – has pushed our country to the very limits.”

He said his government had been too optimistic about the pandemic ahead of the Australian summer and then had to make “massive changes” when case numbers skyrocketted with the Omicron variant of coronavirus.