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The AI Action Plan includes a targeted $124.1 million Australian Government investment to strengthen Australian leadership in developing and adopting responsible AI.

It leverages our competitive strengths, drives technological transformation and economic growth while ensuring all Australians have an opportunity to benefit from AI. This will increase the productivity and competitiveness of Australian businesses and create new, high-paying jobs.

The plan will support Australian businesses to operate at the digital frontier, enter new markets and scale their operations. Globally, it will help position Australia to be a leading digital economy and society by 2030.

Our future pathways for success will depend on government, industry, researchers and civil society working together across the ecosystem. Where possible, we will measure our progress and report on implementation of the action plan each year.

    Direct AI 2021–22 Budget measures on this page:

    National Artificial Intelligence Centre

    Establishing the National AI Centre alongside 4 Digital Capability Centres (Capability Centres) will lay the foundations for an Australian AI and digital ecosystem. These centres will help drive business adoption and the use of transformative AI technologies to improve productivity and lift competitiveness.

    The National AI Centre (within CSIRO’s Data61) will coordinate Australia’s AI expertise and capabilities. It will address barriers that SMEs face in adopting and developing AI and emerging technology. The centre will also:

    • support projects that lift AI business capability to use cutting edge technology across multiple sectors
    • foster collaboration between industry and researchers and attract investment
    • work across the entire AI ecosystem to ensure that activities delivered by each of the Capability Centres are strategically aligned

    Four Capability Centres will be appointed through an open competitive process that will focus on specific applications of AI, such as robotics or AI-assisted manufacturing. These centres will provide:

    • a ‘front door’ for SMEs looking for talent, knowledge and the tools to adopt transformational AI technologies
    • access to advice and training to help SMEs confidently adopt AI technologies
    • links with the required AI expertise to identify business needs and connect SMEs to leading researchers.

    A key focus of this measure will be increasing commercialisation of Australia’s AI expertise and capabilities. This will require collaboration between research organisations, businesses and industry to create a thriving digital ecosystem.

    The program will be open for applications in coming months.

    Implementation timeline: new AI actions

    2021–2022
    • National AI Centre launched
    • Open competitive process to establish 4 Capability Centres
    • 4 Capability Centres launched

    Signs of success

    Action
    • National Artificial Intelligence Centre
    Focus Area
    • Developing and adopting AI to transform Australian businesses
    Success sign
    • We have the foundations for a strong and connected Australian AI and digital ecosystem, which accelerates the development and adoption of transformative AI technologies in Australia.
    Action
    • AI and Digital Capability Centres
    Focus area
    • Developing and adopting AI to transform Australian businesses
    Success sign
    • Australian businesses adopt, adapt, develop and export safe and secure AI technologies, lifting productivity, increasing commercialisation, boosting competitiveness and creating jobs.

    Catalysing the AI Opportunity in our Regions

    The Catalysing the AI Opportunity in our Regions grants program will incentivise AI practitioners to engage with regional businesses to develop AI solutions for regional problems. Providing opportunities to build greater awareness of the benefits of AI throughout regional communities is a step towards:

    • supporting trusted, safe and secure online interactions
    • increasing the regional opportunities that AI technologies offer.

    This measure will support businesses that operate in regional Australia. It can potentially benefit those in key manufacturing industries, such as those included in the National Manufacturing Priorities under our Modern Manufacturing Strategy.

    The program will consist of 3 rounds with up to 12 co-funded competitive grants per round, delivered on a rolling basis every 12 months. Successful applicants will receive competitive, cofunded grants of $250,000 to $1,000,000. Joint applicants will be invited to apply – for example, a joint application with regional businesses and research institution partners. Applicants can include universities and publicly funded research bodies, technology companies and regional businesses, including SMEs and startups.

    Implementation timeline: new AI actions

    2021–22
    • First round of grants for Catalysing the AI Opportunity in our Regions program opens
    2022–23
    • Second round of grants for Catalysing the AI Opportunity in our Regions program opens
    2023–24
    • Third round of grants for Catalysing the AI Opportunity in our Regions program opens

    Signs of success

    Action
    • Catalysing the AI Opportunity in our Regions
    Focus area
    • Developing and adopting AI to transform Australian businesses
    Success sign
    • Australian regional businesses adopt, adapt, develop and export safe and secure AI technologies, lifting productivity, increasing commercialisation, boosting competitiveness and creating jobs.

    Next Generation AI Graduates

    The Next Generation AI Graduates Program will attract and train at least 234 home-grown, job-ready AI specialists through competitive national scholarships.

    The scholarships will be co-funded with universities and industry to support students to pursue an Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF) Levels 8 (Honours) to 10 (Doctoral) qualification. Students will also participate in tailored training and professional development to build job-ready and complementary skills. These graduates will help backfill the shortage of AI specialists, which businesses report as the most pressing challenge to adapting and developing AI technologies.

    The Next Generation AI Graduate program is designed so that cohorts of high-performing students undertake industry-focused research projects and placements to build real-world experience. This will bridge the research-industry divide by focusing research on industry-specific topics, translating research directly into industry and developing students with industry-ready experience. This would be expected to include experience in key sectors where Australia has a comparative advantage, including the 6 National Manufacturing Priorities under the Modern Manufacturing Strategy.

    In addition to the AI Action Plan initiatives, a further investment in the Next Generation Emerging Technology Graduates Program will attract and train a further 234 specialists through competitive national scholarships. The specialists will be in other emerging technologies, such as robotics, cyber security, quantum computing, blockchain and data.

    By increasing the supply of job-ready AI specialists, business will be better placed to adopt, adapt and deploy new and emerging technologies. Access to this pipeline of home-grown AI talent will:

    • help drive the competitiveness of Australian businesses
    • ensure local talent is available to fill high-skilled AI jobs here in Australia.

    This complements efforts of the Global Business and Talent Attraction Taskforce to generate quality jobs for Australians and work with businesses to build clusters of skills in priority sectors.

    CSIRO will deliver the Next Generation AI Graduate program. It will work with universities, industry partners and other stakeholders in the development and implementation of this measure. The measure will include mechanisms that best ensure Australia retains students onshore following the completion of their studies.

    Implementation timeline: new AI actions

    2021–22
    • Engagement with industry partners, universities and stakeholders
    • First round of cohorts under the Next Generation AI Graduates Program commence
    2022–23
    • Second round of cohorts under the Next Generation AI Graduates Program commence
    • Third round of cohorts under the Next Generation AI Graduates Program commence
    2023–24
    • Fourth round of cohorts under the Next Generation AI Graduates Program commence
    • Fifth round of cohorts under the Next Generation AI Graduates Program commence

    Signs of success

    Action
    • Next Generation AI Graduates program
    Focus area
    • Creating an environment to grow and attract the world’s best AI talent
    Success sign
    • There is a skilled AI talent pool in Australia.
    • Australians possess the skills and capabilities to benefit from and participate in an AI-enabled society, making our lives better and more prosperous.

    AI Solutions to Build a Stronger Australia

    AI Solutions to Build a Stronger Australia will support businesses to partner with government to pilot AI projects that address challenges of national significance. These businesses will develop AI-based solutions to these challenges that will lead to job creation, economic recovery and other social benefits.

    Challenges will focus on areas of AI specialisation identified in the Artificial Intelligence Roadmap, National Science and Research Priorities, CSIRO Missions, and areas supporting the Modern Manufacturing Strategy. These challenges will combine private sector expertise and government data to solve challenges that tangibly improve the lives of Australians.

    This initiative will also provide a pathway to enable agencies to procure the AI solution at the end of the pilot to address the national challenge. Participating businesses will retain the intellectual property of their solutions, providing them with an opportunity to commercialise their work.

    This measure will be delivered through a challenge-based competitive grants process. In each round of the program, challenges will be put forward by the Australian Government. Those that believe they can provide a solution to the challenge will have the opportunity to submit a proposal for consideration by government. It will be expected that any grantees will abide by Australian principles and legislation on privacy, data sharing and other relevant requirements. Grantees are also expected to adopt Australia’s AI Ethics Principles in their solutions.

    Developing AI-based solutions will also provide an opportunity to demonstrate the application and potential of AI technologies, encouraging greater adoption across the economy.

    Implementation timeline: new AI actions

    2021–22
    • First round of grants for AI Solutions to Build a Stronger Australia program opens
    2022–23
    • Second round of grants for AI Solutions to Build a Stronger Australia program opens

    Signs of success

    Action
    • AI Solutions to Build a Stronger Australia
    Focus area
    • Using cutting edge AI technologies to solve Australia’s national challenges
    Success sign
    • Australian businesses and researchers collaborate to develop and apply AI to national problems.
    • Australian Government fosters adoption of trusted AI as a ‘first-adopter’ procurer, standard-setter and exemplar of ethical development and use of AI.
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