Government plans $44 million for new AI centres to increase jobs and skills for SMEs

Melissa Price AI centres

Minister for Science and Technology Melissa Price. Source: AAP/Mick Tsikas

The government will stump up $44 million for four new artificial intelligence (AI) and digital capability centres in the hope that commercialising the research will help small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) leverage local expertise to generate more jobs.

The idea is that by giving SMEs access to AI expertise, they will be able to develop solutions leading to growth and more employment.

In a statement, Minister for Science and Technology Melissa Price said she wanted Australia to accelerate the development and adoption of AI products and services using homegrown research.

“Our government will continue to bolster the growth of AI by increasing the sharing of knowledge, supporting shared projects, and promoting long-term job creation.

“By requiring the centres to focus on a priority area we can tailor the support for businesses to drive our manufacturing capability,” she said.

Groups applying for government grants to establish the centre must pick an area in specific applications of AI to focus on that will advance the National Manufacturing Priorities under the Modern Manufacturing Initiative, or the Digital Growth Priorities under the Digital Economy Strategy.

The multi-million-dollar investment for the centres is part of the national AI action plan worth $124.1 million and the new centres will work with the National Artificial Intelligence Centre at CSIRO’s Data61.

The minister said grants of up to $11 million would be made available to establish each centre; and the applications must be jointly made by an industry partner to ​​build on an existing technology, manufacturing hub or university.

Applicants to set up a centre must contribute 25% of the total project’s expenditure and may provide additional in-kind contributions.

The government hopes to use the centres to firm up an Australian ecosystem of research institutions, innovation hubs and businesses to drive the adoption of AI by industry.

“The centres will act as a front door for SMEs to improve their AI skills in order to adopt AI products in their businesses,” Price said.

This article was first published by The Mandarin.

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