A flurry of pre-budget announcements from the Federal Government has increased speculation that CSIRO will attract additional funding across a series of spending measures.
The Government has made several pre-budget announcements over the past fortnight that could result in extra funding for CSIRO; through policies relating to the digital economy, biosecurity, radio astronomy, energy and climate science.
As part of a $1.2 billion Digital Economy Strategy, CSIRO Data 61 has been tapped to coordinate Artificial Intelligence (AI) research.
The package includes $124.1 million in initiatives to boost AI capability, including a National Artificial Intelligence Centre led by Data 61, ‘supported by a network of AI and Digital Capability Centres to drive adoption of AI across the economy.’
$371 million will be spent on a biosecurity package to ‘strengthen Australia’s ability to keep out exotic pests and diseases and improve our ability to fight an outbreak.’
While the detail of how the funding will be spent is likely to be revealed in the budget papers, CSIRO could benefit from $34.6 million earmarked for research and improved field tools to understand threats from pest and diseases (with a particular focus on Northern Australia) and $67.4 million to support biosecurity preparedness and response capabilities.
As part of a $387 million commitment to construct and operate the Square Kilometre Array (SKA), CSIRO will benefit from new expenditure to assist the project.
$64.4 million will be spent to establish a specialist super-computing centre, to be based in Perth, to process the data that generated by the SKA.
The Government will use the budget to invest a further $539.2 million in new clean hydrogen, carbon capture, use and storage (CCS/CCUS) projects.
$275.5 million will accelerate the development of four additional clean hydrogen hubs in regional Australia and implement a clean hydrogen certification scheme, while $263.7 million will support the development of CCS/CCUS projects and hubs.
Further detail is expected in the budget papers which may reveal additional funding for CSIRO, given the organisation’s significant research experience in both hydrogen and carbon capture.
The Government will invest $600 million a new program of disaster preparation and mitigation, managed by the new National Recovery and Resilience Agency (NRRA) and including further support for Emergency Management Australia (EMA).
While a detailed funding breakdown is still to be revealed, a new Australian Climate Service – involving researchers from CSIRO, BOM, ABS and Geoscience Australia – will provide scientific advice to inform the operations of NRAA and EMA.
Following similar announcements from the Victorian and New South Wales State Governments; there is growing anticipation that the Government will use the budget to announce increased funding for local mRNA vaccine manufacturing.
Health Minister Greg Hunt has already confirmed that talks have started with industry players such as CSL – with whom CSIRO is already providing research support – to develop a business case.