Australian IT bodies cheer R&D action plan

Australian industry groups have welcomed the federal government's long-awaited Innovation Action Plan.

          Australian industry groups have welcomed the federal government's long-awaited Innovation Action Plan.

          Rob Durie, executive director for the Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA), says the association looked positively on the government's statement and sees it "not as a panacea, but as a good first step."

          "We are pleased with the key issues raised in the statement."

          Prime Minister John Howard presented the federal government's Backing Australia's Ability, $A2.9 billion ($US1.58 billion), five-year plan at the Australian Technology Park in Sydney this week. The plan will provide funding in the areas of science, research and innovation.

          The government's outlay is expected to underpin business and research organisational expenditure of about $A6 billion.

          Leo van Neuren, executive officer for the Information Technology and Telecommunication Industry Training Advisory Body (IT&TAB) says that, despite not acknowledging the importance of vocational education training (VET) to the sector, the government should be "applauded" for recognizing initiatives the industry has been pushing for a long time.

          Among several initiatives released in the report, an information and communications technology (ICT) Centre of Excellence was earmarked.

          Van Neuren says the initiative would be "interesting", but was awaiting further details on the venture.

          The government has allocated $A129.5 million over five years to the centre which will undertake leading-edge ICT research and projects of commercial relevance to the industry.

          The stand-alone centre is planned to be established within 18 months and when fully operational, is expected to employ about 250 researchers.

          The government says it is expected in time that 25% of the centre's costs above the government's contribution would be provided through the participation of the industry.

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