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Enabling technologies and sciences

Our emerging technologies and sciences are powering real world, breakthrough solutions.

Whether it's digitech, createch, materials and manufacturing or any of the technologies that support our future-focused sectors, Australia is on the cutting-edge.

In almost every scientific field, Australian research publications have an impact that is at least one fifth above the global average.  

$70b
In grants and incentives

Australia offers nearly A$70 billion in grants, incentives and funding pools to Australian-based companies across priority sectors.

Source: Accenture

Australia’s world-class research is supported by generous government funding, including a commitment of A$4 billion to support national research infrastructure through to 2029. Our innovators have access to some of the world’s best laboratories, research facilities, professional networks and government support including through organisations like Australia’s national science agency, the CSIRO, and the Australian Research Council.

We’re establishing a Critical Technologies Fund to deliver A$1 billion in investment support through loans, equity and guarantees for businesses in critical technologies. The fund will expand strategic industry capability in Australia in areas like artificial intelligence, robotics and quantum computing, powering future economic growth.

Surgeon using technology

Digitech

Australia is a trailblazer in digitech, and we’re continuing our pioneering path. We’ve made breakthroughs in autonomous robotics, artificial intelligence, remote sensors and neural networks.

Digital technologies could be worth A$315 billion to the Australian economy by 2028, according to world-leading data science research body, CSIRO’s Data61. Already, digitech contributes about A$167 billion to our GDP every year.

Australia values people who think differently, and whose ingenuity is reshaping existing industries and kickstarting new ones.

We have a business-friendly regulatory environment and extraordinary talent at our many world-leading universities and research institutions. CSIRO has partnered with industry for more than 100 years, using science and technology to solve some of the greatest challenges.

The Australian Academy of Science has a National Committee for Information and Communication Sciences, which aims to foster information and communication sciences in Australia, to link the Academy to scientists and practitioners in this area and to relevant scientific and professional societies, and to serve as a link between Australian and overseas scientists. In conjunction with the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering, the Committee has released a strategic plan for preparing for Australia’s digital future.

Read more about our strengths and opportunities in digitech, including AI, blockchain and digital ledger technologies, quantum technologies and robotics.

 

Cliff Obrecht, Canva COO and Co-founder
The Aussie tech scene is thriving. We’ve seen this growth firsthand. We started out as a team of just a few sitting around a single conference table. Today, we’ve grown to a team of more than 2,000 people from all over the world.

We know that talent is one of the most critical aspects of building a global company. You’re nothing without a great team around you. We’re fortunate to have been able to attract some of the best and brightest minds from leading companies all over the world. Bringing in this talent and perspective has played a huge role in sharing knowledge across the whole tech sector – it’s how we’ll continue to grow and solve even harder challenges.

Australia has quietly made a name for itself as a country of innovators. It was Aussie ingenuity that cooked up inventions including WiFi, the hearing aid and the pacemaker. To remain competitive and keep producing world-changing innovations, we need to continue attracting talent from every corner of the globe.

I have a sense that we’re just getting started. Australia is undoubtedly a great place to live, and it’s also a great place to start and scale a company.
Cliff Obrecht, Co-founder and COO,
Canva

Artificial intelligence

Australia is home to three of the world’s top 100 institutions for AI, according to the Nature Index 2020 Artificial Intelligence.

We rank first in our region for government readiness to take advantage of AI, which is exciting given the technology could be worth A$22.8 trillion to the global economy by 2030.

AI has an extraordinary range of uses across the economy, such driverless trucks operating in the Pilbara’s mines, robots automating weed removal on farms or the early detection of skin cancer. CSIRO’s Data61 has developed an AI system that combines current knowledge of fire behaviour and with state-of-the-art simulation science to produce predictions, statistics and visualisations of bushfire spread.

Australia will continue to harness the power of AI to modernise industries like manufacturing and farming, improve the diagnosis and treatment of diseases, and enhance our defence capabilities.

It’s estimated Australia will need up to 161,000 new AI specialists and AI-savvy workers by 2030. Our Next Generation AI Graduates Program offers competitive scholarships to attract and train AI specialists.

We want to super-charge AI commercialisation and business adoption of AI technologies in Australia. The Centre for Augmented Reasoning is a new national hub to develop machine learning expertise and accelerate AI commercialisation, while a National Artificial Intelligence Centre will drive business adoption of AI technologies and support companies to partner with government.

Case study

  • Brisbane-based consultancy Max Kelsen is one of Australia’s AI start-up success stories. Its team of data scientists, research analysts and software engineers help government and commercial enterprises to successfully deploy AI and machine learning to automate and improve processes and boost their bottom line.

Quantum technologies

Australia is a world-leader in silicon-based quantum computing research.

We’re leading the way in commercialising quantum technologies, which CSIRO predicts could create an A$86 billion global industry by 2040.

Australia is home to 22 quantum-related research institutions including, the University of New South Wales’ Centre of Excellence for Quantum Computation and Communication Technology and the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Engineered Quantum Systems. A new Quantum Commercialisation Hub will further support innovative research.

Australian researchers proved in 2022 that near error-free quantum computing is possible, which is a crucial step to building silicon-based quantum devices compatible with semiconductor manufacturing technology. The advance, made by researchers from bodies including UNSW, UTS and the University of Melbourne, paves the way for large silicon-based quantum processors to be used in real-world manufacturing.

Also in 2022, an Australian company made a breakthrough that has set the stage for a new era of computer technology. Silicon Quantum Computing made the world’s first integrated circuit at the atomic scale to simulate the behaviour of a small organic molecule. This represents an incredible leap forward in the race to build the world’s first quantum computer. The discovery could have a wealth of practical applications, such as lowering the cost of food production and making it quicker to design medicines.

Photo of Professor Michelle Simmons
We’re near the limit of what classical computers can do, so it’s like stepping off the edge into the unknown. And this is the thing that’s exciting: we can now make bigger devices that are beyond what a classical computer can model. So, we can look at molecules that haven’t been simulated before. We’re going to be able to understand the world in a different way, addressing fundamental questions that we’ve never been able to solve before.
Professor Michelle Simmons, CEO,
Silicon Quantum Computing and Director of the Centre of Excellence for Quantum Computation and Communication Technology at the University of New South Wales

Internet of things

The internet of things (IoT) – smart devices connected to the internet that collect and share data – has the potential to boost Australia’s GDP by A$230 billion over the next decade.

There are already an estimated 47 million smart devices in Australian homes. The IoT is increasingly playing a pivotal role across Australia’s economy, including in mining, agriculture, fishing and forestry, construction, manufacturing and the management of cities. Australian businesses of all sizes are embracing the IoT to optimise supply chain performance,

Within Australia’s health and aged care systems, doctors are able to monitor patients’ health and chronic diseases in real time thanks to wearable devices. During the pandemic, smart wearables, such as smart thermometers and pulse oximeters, were used to monitor patients at home.

Robotics

Robotics injects an estimated A$18 billion into the Australian economy each year.

The CSIRO’s Robotics and Autonomous Systems Group leads the world in advanced research and development of applied robotics and autonomous systems. A drone that can fly 600 metres underground and a legged robot that stands 2.25 metres tall are among the group’s innovations.

The Group was also one of 11 teams selected worldwide to participate in the three-year DARPA Subterranean Challenge. Funded by the US's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the challenge explored new approaches to rapidly map, navigate and search underground environments. Team CSIRO’s Data61 beat teams from NASA JPL, MIT, California Institute of Technology, and Carnegie Mellon University to claim second place.

The Robotics Australia Network connects members with government, industry, researchers and investors. The ARM (Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing) Hub is an agile technology centre in robotics, AI and design-led manufacturing that accelerates industry’s digital transformation.

Createch

Australia is a creative nation. Creative and cultural industries together contribute A$115 billion to GDP every year. And according to the Creative Skills for the Future Economy report, around one in 10 Australian employees are formally qualified in creative industries.

Whether it’s using virtual reality to teach science or visual design to improve robots, the possibilities are endless. Australia shines when technology and creativity connect. The collision of ideas, skills, perspectives and collaborations foster new ways of thinking and working across the economy.

Here’s just some of what’s going on:

  • UAP (Urban Art Projects) collaborates with artists, architects, designers and developers to bring creativity to the public realm and expert resources to creativity.
  • Animal Logic is one of the world’s leading independent creative digital studios, producing award-winning design, visual effects and animation.
  • Rising Sun Pictures is a world-class visual effects company creating memorable screen moments.
  • BondiLabs works with government and industry to solve problems in food processing, biosecurity and logistics using AR, AI and IoT.
  • Opaque Media designs, builds and deploys cutting edge-software, including VR and AR, to help organisations of all types and sizes solve problems.
  • The Studio is a leading incubator, community, and co-working space for entrepreneurs, business, and industry professionals working in createch.
  • Sandpit creates and designs interactive experiences for cultural spaces using anything from architecture to projections.
  • The QUT Design Lab is a community of designers, engineers, roboticists, creative thinkers, makers, artists, health practitioners and innovators all working to transform ideas into tangible design artefacts, images, spaces, interactions and processes.
  • Creative Technology Australia brings together a range of technologies to enhance entertainment, sport, broadcast and exhibitions.

Visual effects

Australia is home to a thriving film industry and world-class studios creating state-of-the-art visual effects. Our reputation for sophisticated, complex photo-real work has been forged partly through iconic franchises like The Avengers and the Harry Potter films. Spiderman: No Way Home and The Batman are just some of the large-scale foreign productions recently completing visual effects in Australia.

Visual effects pioneer Industrial Light & Magic, founded by George Lucas and behind such iconic movies as Star Wars and Jurassic Park, opened its newest studio in Sydney in 2019. Sydney digital studio Animal Logic animated The Lego Movie and The Lego Batman movie, which grossed US$779 million combined.

Materials and manufacturing

Australia has a bright future in collaborating, co-designing and co-creating innovations in materials science, precision engineering and advanced manufacturing.

We are home to five of the world’s top 200 institutions for materials science, according to the Nature Index 2021. And our peer networks are strong, linking top researchers with collaborators across the country and beyond. The Australian Academy of Science has a National Committee for Materials Science and Engineering, bringing together scientists, engineers and institutions, as well as serving as a link between local and international material scientists. The Australian Materials Research Society is an umbrella body that connects to the materials science and engineering research communities.

RMIT University in Melbourne has partnered with Europe’s leading 3D printing institute, the Fraunhofer Institute for Material and Beam Technology IWS, to focus on using advanced 3D printing to manufacture and repair high value-added products. RMIT’s Centre for Additive Manufacturing is one of the top facilities for additive manufacturing in the world, according to Christoph Leyens, Director of Fraunhofer IWS.

Our national science agency CSIRO has vast expertise in materials research, from early development to testing, scaling up and designing manufacturing processes. CSIRO’s facilities include the Lab22 Innovation Centre for Additive Manufacturing, FloWorks Centre for Industrial Flow Chemistry, the Biomedical Materials Translational Facility and the joint Swinburne CSIRO Industry 4.0 Testlab in Composite Additive Manufacturing. The CSIRO has developed cutting-edge nano coatings including silicon-based mesoporous and microspheres coatings. Its world class facilities produce thin film materials unique in Australia with multiple real-world uses. Its technology has been adopted by the Royal Australian Mint and the Australian Institute of Sport.

Computational metallurgy

Computational metallurgy applies computational science to metallic material systems. Applications include additive manufacturing, surface hardening, corrosion, surface characterisation and hardfacing to create products that reduce wear, resist external impact and extend the life of metals.

CSIRO’s Lab22 Innovation Centre is one of Australia's leading centres for metallic additive manufacturing, with broad expertise and capability including computational metallurgy. It develops innovative materials and additive manufacturing techniques for the space, defence and medical Industries. Its partners include NASA JPL, Boeing and Chevron Corporation.

Case studies

  • CSIRO worked with Melbourne manufacturer Amaero Engineering to explore the use of conformal cooling in 3D printed die cast tooling, using computational modelling. They developed an innovative solution using clever simulations.

Nanotech

The A$150 million Sydney Nanoscience Hub is a world-class centre for nanoscale research and education. It houses labs and core nanofabrication and characterisation facilities, and is jointly funded by the Commonwealth Education Infrastructure Fund and the University of Sydney.

In 2022, the Hub is challenging researchers to develop the following:

  • new nanomaterials to capture sunlight and convert it into renewable fuels
  • microfluidic solutions for the rapid and accurate diagnosis of blood clots by simulating human vessels on small chips
  • disruptive nanoscale sensing technologies for detection of airborne pathogens to upgrade public biosecurity.

The University of Queensland hosts the Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology. An integrated multi-disciplinary research institute bringing together the skills of world-class researchers, its work includes precision nanomedicine and agriculture nanotechnology.

Recently, the Institute used nanotechnology to improve the performance of sugarcane waste when it’s turned into bio-based single-use packaging materials. Adding a small amount of nanofibres to sugarcane pulp improves its mechanical properties and increases the shelf life of food.

Biosciences

Australia is a global hub for bioscience researchers, manufacturers and investors. The biosciences ecosystem supports better outcomes for life on Earth and complements our long-standing expertise in health and life sciences and agrifood.

Australia has enviable credentials in bioscience. Our world-class universities are at the global forefront of research in clinical medicine, and we’re consistently ranked among Nature Index’s top 10 contributors to life sciences research globally.

The cochlear implant, an Australian invention, is one of the earliest examples of improving wellbeing through digital technology. Since then, our advancements in biological innovation have driven products and services like vaccines, pharmaceuticals, diagnostics, agricultural cultivation, genomics, and wearables. During COVID-19, Australia has been recognised globally for our rapid adoption of telehealth and other digital healthcare tools to ensure ongoing support for all patients.

  • Market capitalisation of ASX listed biotech companies has grown 37% over the last three years, rising from about A$170 billion in 2019 to around A$233 billion in 2022.
  • Capital raised by ASX-listed biotech companies in 2021 hit a record high A$8 billion, indicating investors’ support and recognition of the industry’s future growth
  • The Australian biotechnology sector has grown by 60% since 2017
  • The sector is comprised of 2,654 organisations, including companies, research institutes and industry
  • Almost 263,700 people are employed in Australia’s biotech sector

Source: Australian Biotechnology Sector Snapshot 2022

Many leading biotechnology companies have set up in Australia, including Johnson & Johnson, Gilead Sciences and Sonic Healthcare. The industry body, AusBiotech, represents a network of more than 3,000 members. Over the next decade, the biotechnology sector is expected to contribute more than A$8 billion in gross value added and $12 billion in manufacturing exports.

Melbourne-based CSL, Australia’s leading biotech multinational, is manufacturing around 50 million doses of the AstraZeneca–Oxford COVID-19 vaccine. Australia’s vaccine manufacturing capability will soon be expanded further with the establishment of a new Moderna vaccine manufacturing facility in Victoria.

Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO, ranks in the top 1% of the world’s scientific institutions in 15 of 22 research fields. It plays a major role in our biosciences sector, with R&D spanning precision health, genetics, disease control, plant and animal sciences, bio systems and diagnostics. One of the world's largest mission-driven multidisciplinary science and research organisations, its facilities include:

In 2020, Australian Genomics received a A$5 million grant through the Medical Research Future Fund to expand its research network to deliver ultra-rapid testing to more than 240 critically ill children over three years.

Synthetic biology

Synthetic biology is the application of engineering principles and genetic technologies to biological engineering. It’s estimated the global synthetic biology-enabled market could grow to A$700 billion by 2040.

Australia’s increasing research base and attractive business environment for international partnerships positions us to play a leading role in servicing the growing Asia-Pacific market for synthetic biology-enabled products, which is expected to reach A$3.1 billion by 2024.

Australia has invested at least A$80 million in developing synthetic biology research capabilities in recent years. By 2040, synthetic biology could unlock up to A$27 billion in annual revenue and 44,000 new jobs for Australia.

The largest emerging markets for synthetic biology applications are tipped to be food and agriculture and health and medicine. Uses for synthetic biology in food and agriculture include biomanufacturing sustainable alternatives to animal proteins and agricultural chemicals, biosensors for biosecurity and surveillance of agricultural conditions and engineered crops and biological treatments for increased resilience and better nutritional content. In health and medicine, engineered biosensors can be used for diagnostic applications including rapid point-of-care tests and engineered cell-based therapies and vaccines are being developed.

Further boosting Australia’s synthetic biology ecosystem could also help establish cost-effective domestic manufacturing capabilities to boost supply chain resilience and protect the nation from biological threats, including emerging infectious diseases and bioterrorism.

Bringing together universities, start-ups, large businesses, government and industry bodies, the ARC Centre of Excellence in Synthetic Biology is pioneering new solutions to global agricultural, food production, manufacturing, healthcare and environmental challenges.

CSIRO has deep capacity, especially through its Synthetic Biology Future Science Platform. Australia has invested A$8.3 million to create a new CSIRO BioFoundry, a state-of-the-art facility providing bioengineering capability to the R&D community.

Incentives and government support

The Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) is a A$20 billion long-term investment pool transforming medical research and innovation to help people, strengthen the economy and contribute to health system sustainability.

As part of the fund, a A$450 million Medical Research Commercialisation initiative supports innovative researchers to turn their early stage health and medical research into life-saving medicines, devices and treatments. The initiative includes supports programs such as:

  • The A$79 million Early Stage Translation and Commercialisation Support program, which funds early stage Australian medical research and innovation projects with commercial potential
  • The A$50 million BioMedTech Incubator, aimed at increasing the number of innovations, novel drugs, novel uses for existing drugs, innovative medical devices and digital health technologies that have progressed through the early stages of research and development to the point where they are ‘de-risked’ and attractive to private investment or commercialisation
  • The A$22.3 million Biomedical Translation Bridge Program, which nurtures early-stage health and medical research to reach proof-of-concept, with the potential to attract further capital and support.

Australia is an established global leader in world-class research. The Australian Government helps maintain this reputation by ensuring researchers have access to cutting-edge national research infrastructure supported through the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS) program.

NCRIS currently supports 22 funded projects, plus pilot projects and an international membership. The projects are led by organisations including universities, publicly funded research organisations and private companies.

The Australian Government will invest A$4 billion in NRI from 2018 to 2029. In the 2020–21 financial year, A$251 million will be spent supporting Australia’s national research infrastructure through NCRIS.

Other key support includes:

The Department of Industry has details about Partnering with Australia on innovation, science and research, focusing on strategies to bring government, businesses and researchers together and grow our capabilities.

ANDHealth is a national digital health initiative established by a consortium of commercial and government partners to facilitate and support the development and commercialisation of clinically validated digital health technologies across Australia.

Case studies

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