Procurement to inspire 'ideas boom' in Australia

Adam Leach is a freelance business journalist
10 December 2015

Australian Prime Minister Malcom Turnbull has put reforming public sector procurement and opening up access to government contracts to small and medium sized enterprises at the heart of his plan to increase innovation and entrepeneurship accross Australia.

In his first major economic policy announcement, the PM unveiled a AUS$1 billion funding package and a raft of measures designed to inspire an 'ideas boom' across the country.

With the majority of the funding package being used to assist and develop start ups and early stage technology companies in going to market, the strategy aims to put the AUS$5 billion spent on government IT each year to better and broader use to further fuel growth in those areas.

Taking a lead from Silicon Valley and a number of other national governments, the plan also includes an open source element. Departments accross government will publish wide-ranging data sets and invite industry and academics to submit new proposals on how to fix public policy and service delivery. Succesful submissions will recieive grants of up to $100,000 and up to six months of development time. Ideas deemed particularly strong may receive $1 million in grants and 18 months to launch a full prototype or trial.

Highlighting the need for action to be taken to make it easier both for business to sell to government and government to buy from them, Turnbull called for greater agility and speed in public procurement.

"There have been too many barriers, it has been too hard, too much red tape, too many forms," he said. "We can sweep that aside. In 2015, we don't need that. We need to work swiftly and nimbly and government has to lead the way. This is the opportunity of the 21st-century."

As part of the programme, Data 61, which sits within the Commonwealth Scienctific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), will receive AUS$75 million and be tasked with creating new ways for government and industry to work together on solving public sector problems. Much of this will be focused within the AUS$5 billion a year spent on IT but there will also be a push to explore opportunities in the federal government's overall annual procurement spend of AUS$50 billion.

Minister for industry, innovation and science Christopher Pyne explained as part of its work, Data 61 will launch a new digital marketplace for businesses to offer their services and solutions and for government purchasers to approach those where they see potential opportunities. "Data 61 will be doing something different which will be saying what government wants to do and asking for support from business."

The push to increase innovation accross Australia comes as the country seeks to diversify its economy away from mining and natural resources, with the current turmoil in the sector weighing heavy on the country's economic performance.

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