A new national interest test to guide government funding and an innovation fund to support emerging technologies will be enshrined in law as part of the Future Made in Australia bill introduced to the lower house this week.

Treasurer Jim Chalmers introduced the bill, which will underpin the $22.7 billion, 10-year investment unveiled in this year’s budget, to the House of Representatives on Wednesday morning.

The Future Made in Australia package is the federal government’s effort to “help make Australia a renewable energy superpower, and an indispensable part of the global net zero economy”, Chalmers said in his speech in Parliament.

Chalmers said the plan is “about secure, well-paid jobs and more opportunities in more parts of the country, and it’s about delivering a new generation of prosperity”.

“And the Future Made in Australia Act is all about imposing the necessary rigour and robustness on the public funding which will leverage the sorts of private investment that we need to see, and to make sure that the private investment when it flows, benefits our workers, our employers, our investors, and our local communities at the same time.”

A framework to guide investments

Most relevant for Australian tech companies is the introduction of a National Interest Framework to guide Commonwealth investments, and the launch of an innovation fund that will support emerging technologies in priority areas.

The National Interest Framework will be used to identify sectors where Australia has a “sustained comparative advantage” in the net-zero economy, or an economic resilience and security imperative to invest in it.

One such potential sector that Minister for Industry Ed Husic has already identified is the quantum industry, which he said earlier this year was “the future of made in Australia”.

The government will be able to direct Treasury to conduct assessments of sectors under this framework, which will look at the existing barriers to private investments in them and opportunities for public support to address them.

These assessments will be used to “support government decision-making in relation to significant public investment that unlocks private investment at scale in the national interest”, the bill’s explanatory memorandum said.

The legislation also sets into law new Community Benefit Principles that will apply to government investments under the plan. These principles include the promotion of safe and secure jobs, development of a skilled and inclusive workforce, positive outcomes for local communities, strengthening domestic industrial capabilities and compliance with tax laws.

“The three pillars will work together to help us build a more diversified and more resilient economy powered by renewable energy,” Chalmers said.

These aspects will impose the “necessary rigour and robustness on the public funding which will leverage the sorts of private investment that we need to see”, he said.

A new innovation fund

The bill will also serve to officially launch the Future Made in Australia Innovation Fund, which will provide support to emerging technologies assisting with Australia’s transition to being a net-zero economy.

These technologies will primarily be operating in industries such as green metals, clean energy manufacturing and low-carbon liquid fuels.

The $1.7 billion fund will be administered by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA), an independent statutory authority tasked with improving the competitiveness, and increasing the supply, of renewable energy in Australia.

The fund is “intended to provide support to industries that are critical to Australia’s net zero transformation” through driving early-stage innovation support and removing and solving current research and development barriers to enable these industries to commercialise.

It will also provide funding to pilot programs, first-of-a-kind demonstrations and commercialisation trials that match the government’s priorities under the Future Made in Australia tests.

The overall Future Made in Australia plan will provide $3.2 billion over 10 years to ARENA for the commercialisation of technologies relevant to the net-zero transformation.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese unveiled the Future Made in Australia plan earlier this year, heralding a new era of interventionist industrial policy.

Through this plan, the Australian government will directly intervene to support and subsidise key growth areas and bring together a range of new and existing policies, including the National Reconstruction Fund.