While there has been some focus on R&D - particularly in the important research commercialisation space, disappointingly there wasn’t a lot of focus for SME technology companies. The term start-up wasn’t even mentioned showing how far innovation and technology is from the minds of the policy makers.

Some ‘misses’ in this year’s budget

Lack of policy around skilled workforce visas and hiring of skilled migrants

Innovative and research based companies struggling to recruit talent were hoping for better policy around skilled workforce visas and hiring of skilled migrants to fill the local workforce gaps, but these policies continue to be trapped in red tape. The impact of this lack of skilled workforce negatively impacts the ability of Australia to innovate by not only reducing the growth of these companies, but forcing their R&D offshore where resources are more abundant.

R&D funding

For the Research and Development Tax Incentive program, more clarity and guidance particularly for the software sector was hoped for, but this wasn’t to be. And while some funding was slated for the Export Market Development Grant (EMDG) scheme it seems only SME regional and rural exporters can access it. It would seem strange not to support Australian exporters right now across sector size and location, and limiting it to just these exporters seems short sighted.

A couple of wins for R&D

It was not all bad news and there were some positive outcomes for the R&D community.

  • Significant five year investment into research commercialisation from universities including establishing Australia’s Economic Accelerator, new research pathways training, extending CSIRO’s innovation fund and translation programs and investment into blue sky science.
  • Cyber security capabilities enhancement funds as well as retraining measures. These retraining measures include $3.9 million over two years to encourage women to change and pursue tech careers and tax deductions for employers who invest in digital skills training for their staff.
  • Patent box tax break extension for certain low emission technologies and agricultural and veterinary chemical products innovation. This is an extension to the patent box program announced last year for the medical and biotechnology sector.

Science has, and will always be, the answer to many of our most significant issues including the pandemic, improving economic outlooks, providing better security and protection, climate change, responses to natural disasters and the list goes on. If anything has proven how essential science and R&D are to Australia’s future - it is the last few years. This budget does feel like a somewhat lost opportunity to focus on, and build, our scientific endeavours.