A bipartisan inquiry on innovation in Western Australia has called on the state government to “refocus” Technology Park Bentley and strike a formal “R&D cooperation” with Israel among other measures.
The year-long parliamentary inquiry into “technological and service innovation” in the state produced a 225-page report that – at its highest level – urges bipartisanship and leadership when it comes to fostering innovation.
The inquiry came about to explore Western Australia’s options to diversify its economy outside key verticals such as mining and resources that have traditionally powered its economy.
Inquiry committee chair Ian Blayney said that “the government needs to do more” if it is to effectively diversify through innovation and the growth of knowledge industries.
“Overall, it is the government’s role to help ensure the state’s innovation ecosystem is strong and functioning effectively,” Blayney said.
“The WA Government needs to map the state’s innovation ecosystem to determine any gaps, and then work to fill them.”
One way the government could specifically involve itself would be to combine its science and innovation portfolios into a new department, and a Ministerial role with oversight of both areas.
“The Premier, Hon Colin Barnett, MLA, has recently appointed a Minister for Innovation,” Blayney said.
“This is a positive initiative; a good start, but more needs to be done.”
On specific initiatives, the report calls on the government to “extend its efforts at developing collaborative relationships with interstate and overseas jurisdictions.”
The report notes that the NSW and Victorian state governments have both entered “cooperative agreements” with Israel. Both target co-development and commercialisation of innovative products.
It also notes that participants in the schemes receive access to funding and expertise, while the governments that brokered them had “actively pursued the opportunities” to demonstrate their commitment to start-ups and R&D.
The report recommends that Western Australia follow suit. “The Western Australian government [should] form an industrial R&D cooperation agreement with Israel.”
Commercial tenants into Bentley
Also recommended by the report is a “review and refocus [of] the role of Technology Park Bentley”, an R&D precinct adjacent to Curtin University, 6km from Perth’s CBD.
The inquiry was repeatedly told at hearings that although the park had potential, it was under-utilised and had failed to attract tenants from industry.
It is presently home to the Pawsey Supercomputing Centre and CSIRO, among others.
“While the CSIRO is a major tenant of Technology Park Bentley, there is a need for a major commercial anchor tenant to help attract others to the park,” the report said.
“The Western Australian government [should work to] encourage a major commercial anchor tenant(s) to relocate to Technology Park Bentley”.
“This is an important facility for the state, but effort is required to ensure it operates as effectively as possible and remains fit for purpose,” Blayney added.
The NSW government recently sold its Australian Technology Park precinct, with CBA confirmed as a new anchor tenant for the space. The government instead hopes to build a new start-up and R&D focused space at White Bay.