Author: Rajul Parikh , Founder - 27AI.com.au
The Albanese government has introduced comprehensive industry support initiatives aimed at advancing artificial intelligence and quantum technologies. As part of a critical technologies package, a budget of $101 million has been allocated over a five-year period. This package includes the establishment of a national challenge program and the Australian Centre for Quantum Growth.
In terms of AI funding, approximately $76 million has been allocated for the forward estimates. While this represents a reduction of around $30 million compared to previous allocations, it is important to note that several AI programs under the Morrison government were cancelled due to difficulties in implementation. The new government has taken steps to restructure and streamline these programs.
The $30 million saved from the reduction will be redirected to support the establishment of the Centre for Quantum Growth and contribute to a series of challenge programs. Overall, this adjustment ensures a consistent level of investment in critical technologies.
The recent Budget announcement includes a notable initiative called the Critical Technologies Challenge program, aimed at providing funding to projects that leverage technology to address national challenges.
The inaugural round of challenges will prioritize quantum technology, aligning with the National Quantum Strategy introduced last month, which sets an ambitious goal for Australia to develop the world's first error-corrected quantum computer.
Funding for the new challenge program will commence in 2024/25, starting with an initial allocation of $10.5 million. The budget for subsequent years will see an increase to $18 million in 2025/26, followed by a decrease to $7.4 million in the subsequent year.
Regarding artificial intelligence, the announced funding will contribute to the expansion of the CSIRO-operated National AI Centre, which was established under the previous government's AI Action Plan. The center has been focused on promoting industry adoption and responsible development of AI technologies.
The AI funding will also support small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in adopting AI to enhance their business processes and improve trade competitiveness.
For the upcoming financial year, a budget of slightly over $20 million has been allocated for "Artificial Intelligence Initiatives," covering both components. This amount will increase to $23.3 million in 2024/25, followed by reductions to $19.5 million and $12.4 million in subsequent years.
The AI initiatives introduced by the Albanese government signal a shift from the Coalition's AI Action Plan, although certain elements appear to have similarities. The Coalition plan initially established the National AI Centre and outlined similar challenge and industry support programs.
To accommodate the new government's focus on AI, certain components of the original Action Plan have been eliminated entirely. The previously proposed 'Digital Centres' aimed at facilitating industry adoption, as well as the AI Solutions challenge program and regional grants, have been removed to allocate resources towards the government's updated AI initiatives.
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