Howard made the announcement in Sydney at the launch of the Government's innovation action plan for the future, titled "Backing Australia's Ability". In total, the Government will make $2.9 billion available over the next five years to strengthen the nation's ability to generate ideas and undertake research in areas of the economy, as well as to accelerate the commercial application of these ideas, Howard said.
He said this funding was to ensure Australia continued to play a leading role in the development of new technologies. "With strong industry participation, these centres will undertake cutting edge R&D, focussing on commercialisation and encouraging spin-off companies," he said. The location for the ICT centre has yet to be announced.
In addition to the funding, the Government will also introduce incentives to stimulate increased business investment in R&D. Specifically, the Government will enhance the R&D tax concession arrangements. This includes lifting the R&D tax concession from 125 per cent to 175 per cent. This means for every dollar invested by a company, the government repays it with $1.75.
The Prime Minister's announcement was met with praise by leading lobby groups. "We're delighted to see innovation and its commercialisation become such a high priority on the political agenda," said Australian Computer Society president John Ridge.
The Australian Information Industry Association, the national body which represents companies in the IT&T sector, also came out in support of the Government's actions. "It is pleasing to see the Federal Government clearly recognises the critical role that the Information and Communications Technologies plays in innovation and in driving economic growth," said Association executive director Rob Durie.
"Overall, the Government's package should provide a sound platform for the development of the ICT industry in Australia," he said.