The Australian Computer Society (ACS) has called on both sides of politics to urgently increase the level of support for applied ICT Research and Development in Australia in the wake of a study into Australia's ICT competitiveness.
Noting the mixed performance of Australia reported in the Business Software Alliance (BSA) study, ACS president, Philip Argy, said R&D, and access to the right skill sets are crucial to the creation of innovation that drives productivity gains for Australian industry.
While the BSA Study ranks Australia fifth in overall performance and recognises the nation's strengths in the categories of ICT infrastructure, business environment and legal environment, Argy said continued underinvestment in the two crucial areas of applied R&D and commercialisation of intellectual property is hindering overall global competitiveness.
Referencing the 10 Year ICT Strategic Vision spearheaded by the ACS and acknowledging the considerable support for NICTA from Federal and State Governments, Argy said current government R&D spending and policy focuses more on pure basic and strategic basic research than applied and commercial R&D.
"While there has been some success in achieving commercial outcomes from these investments, commercial exploitation has not been the primary focus of much government funded research," Argy said.
"Production realisation includes product development and commercilisation, as well as design and testing services, and we know that cost effective product realisation is one of the most important preconditions for growing the Australian high technology manufacturing industry."
Argy said the 10 year national ICT strategy represents a blueprint for developing an internationally competitive ICT sector in Australia.
However, he said with increased Federal Government investment in applied ICT R&D, our industry will compete better internationally, which will significantly improve Australia's economic prosperity.
"We need an Australian ICT industry that is a magnet for private investment to support R&D and commercialisation of technology through large, multi-disciplinary commercial R&D and product realisation centres," he said.
"Fostering competitive private sector commercial ICT R&D centres is a key area where government can have a substantial effect on the Australian innovation landscape.
"The strong economic benefits that will result from large scale commercialisation and industrialisation of innovation justify a significant role for government policy in this area. These centres could link with public sector R&D efforts to improve their commercial outcomes," he said.
NICTA recently opened a new research laboratory in Canberra and last year set up a lab in Victoria with the sole aim of investigating ICT as an enabling technology and commercializing telecommunications, information technology and life sciences.
NICTA CTO, Dr Chris Nicol, warned earlier this year that Australia is in grave danger of falling off the world stage if it didn't commit to growing its ICT industry and addressing the worsening skills crisis.
He said if the problem isn't addressed today Australia's ICT pipeline will be dry within a few years.
Nicol described the situation for Australia's ICT exports as dark and gloomy.
"Our exports have dropped and we haven't kept up with other comparable OECD economies such as Ireland, Japan and Korea. For example, Ireland has approximately the same level of ICT imports, but exports over ten times more ICT than Australia,"he said.