ACS president Yohan Ramasundara said the organisation was seeking the setting up of a $100 million Industry 4.0 skills fund which would be available only to the existing workforce, with anyone who wanted to access it needing proof of employment as a condition of eligibility.
The fund should be administered by an independent broker and implemented via a panel of training providers vetted specifically for their best-in-class expertise in emerging areas of technology like AI and machine-learning, he added.
“When you consider the success of Israel and Singapore in attracting inbound corporate investment, compounded by tax minimisation strategies of multinationals, we as a nation are not maximising our purchasing power," Ramasundara said.
A second recommendation was for the incoming government to remodel the early-stage innovation company (ESIC) investors tax credit to to match and better the generous tax relief provided by the UK’s Enterprise Investment Scheme and Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme.
This would mean broadening the criteria defining an “early stage company” eligible for ESIC investment. Current thresholds of spend profile less than $1 million and income below $200,000 were limiting as eligibility criteria, he pointed out.
The ACS was also asking the government to develop a voluntary accord with superannuation funds where accord signatories committed to allocating up to 0.5% of their funds under management to high-growth tech start-ups as a higher risk asset class.
Also suggested was the introduction of an early-stage tech investment initiative within superannuation where individual Australians could allocate up to an additional 2% above the employer compulsory superannuation guarantee removed from concessional contributions cap calculations.
"This would enable more individual Australians to participate in this higher risk, yet higher growth asset class, while also improving capital flow for early-stage tech companies," Ramasundara said.
Another recommendation was that the government take an ecosystem approach to developing Australian AI expertise with funding and access to AI researchers focusing more on development than research. There should also be investment to make more government datasets open, the ACS said.
It also sought tuition and living stipends to help 1000 people gain doctorates in AI. "These PhDs will go on to establish AI start-ups, automate and optimise processes in small to medium enterprises and multinationals, and develop entirely new business models," the ACS said.
"AI is not yet – and unlikely to be for some time – a push button technology. Australia needs post-graduates trained in applying it."
The ACS offered four recommendations which it said would help establish Australia as a world leader in technology talent.
It said the government should help establish and execute a strategy for attracting multinationals to open R&D, engineering centres, high tech and deep tech labs in Australia.
The ACS called for public sector employment to be an enabler of technology and knowledge transfer and for the introduction of a separate Computer Science Centre of Excellence Visa which would allow 2000 computer science graduates from the top 25 globally ranked computer science universities to come to Australia. A new simplified visa approval process providing four-year stay and potential pathway to permanent residency would be needed.
It also called for the introduction of a tech entrepreneur stream of the New Enterprise Incentive Scheme.
Another recommendation was to develop the world’s most educated STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and maths) workforce by 2035 by mandating mathematics study up to to Year 12 nationally, introducing minimum Australian Tertiary Admissions Rank (ATAR) scores for all teaching degrees and funding the development of 3000 specialist computer science teachers, similar to the program included in the UK’s Artificial Intelligence Sector Deal.
Finally, the ACS called for realising the potential of smart cities to improve living standards, and the quality of life for Australia’s people through the following steps:
- Create a new National Smart City Authority, that will oversee the modernisation of our nation’s cities and align interests and co-operative arrangements across all three tiers of government.
- Develop a national Smart City Strategy.
- Include data-sharing and mandate the sharing of physical assets in Federal Government procurement contracts.
- Include compulsory data-sharing in Commonwealth Infrastructure funding arrangements to fast-track IoT adoption.