In 2022 we asked the public for their views on the List of Critical Technologies in the National Interest.
The list identifies technologies that are critical for Australia today or could become critical within the next 10 years.
This report outlines what we heard and our next steps.
The Australian Government is committed to the important role of critical technologies and the activities underway to ensure we can capture the opportunities these critical technologies bring to support our economic prosperity, our national security, our environmental sustainability, and our social cohesion. As part of that commitment, the Minister for Industry and Science opened a 6-week public consultation period on 22 August 2022 to seek comments and feedback on the List of Critical Technologies in the National Interest. The consultation closed on 30 September 2022 with a limited number of extensions given until 7 October 2022.
The consultation process provided useful feedback and input from a wide range of stakeholders. We held 15 open roundtables (195 participants representing academia, industry and government), 1 ministerial roundtable and 3 bilateral roundtables. We also received 205 written submissions. The feedback has helped inform updates to the list.
The majority of stakeholders suggested expanding the current energy and environment category by adding new technologies such as renewables. Stakeholders also suggested the inclusion of technologies that support material reduction and reuse across all technology categories.
Key feedback that was made to improve the list includes:
- clarifying and clearly communicating the purpose and intent of the list
- consolidating and focusing the list on enabling technologies that provide high impact for Australia’s economic and strategic outcomes
- recognising the interrelationship of key technologies and their applications across multiple sectors and industries
- increasing the focus on clean energy and emission reduction technologies
- presenting the list in a different way, such as a critical technologies matrix, to highlight the wide scope and applications of critical technologies.
There were other key themes identified to unlock the potential of critical technologies in Australia, including:
- emphasising the need for more skilled labour to drive Australia’s uptake of critical technologies
- providing legislative and regulatory guidance on critical technologies
- the need to acknowledge and secure Australia’s critical technology supply chains.
The Critical Technologies Hub has worked with government to develop the list, which reflects the collective input and feedback received from the consultation process.
The Minister for Industry and Science launched a 6 week public consultation to invite feedback on the 2021 List of Critical Technologies in the National Interest on 22 August 2022.
The 2021 list featured 63 technologies across 7 categories:
- advanced materials and manufacturing
- AI, computing and communications
- biotechnology, gene technology and vaccines
- energy and environment
- sensing, timing and navigation
- transportation, robotics and space.
Stakeholders were asked to provide input on technologies that the government should consider vital for Australia’s national interest today or have the potential to become critical for Australia within the next decade. The following 5 questions were specifically asked in the consultation paper:
- Are there any technologies that should be considered for inclusion or removal from the original list? What are your reasons for the suggestion?
- Do you have any comments on the individual technology definitions?
- Do you have a view on the frequency of updates to the list?
- Do you have any feedback on the content of the critical technology profiles?
- Has the list influenced decisions in your organisation about technology investment or adoption?
The consultation was public and open to everyone with an interest in critical technologies.
During the consultation process, the Critical Technologies Hub held 15 open public roundtables, 1 ministerial roundtable and 3 bilateral roundtables.
The public roundtables were attended by a total of 195 attendees, the composition of which can be seen in Figure 1 below.
Overall, 97 industry individuals attended the roundtables, representing 84 organisations across a range of sectors. These included industry associations and companies from various sectors including medical technologies, biotechnologies, information technologies, defence technologies, venture capital and consulting. Additionally, 45 academics from 30 research organisations participated in the roundtables, as well as 35 state and federal government representatives and 18 general session participants.
The Critical Technologies Hub received 205 written submissions. These submissions were in the form of online portal submissions, email submissions, handwritten submissions and international post responses. The overall composition of written submissions is shown in Figure 2.
Industry bodies and representatives made up around 40% of the feedback, totalling 81 submissions. University and research organisations provided 46 submissions, while state and federal government organisations provided 28 submissions. Non-government and community organisations provided 6 submissions, while individual members of the public provided 11 submissions. The department also received 33 cables from international postings outlining their views.
Stakeholders provided many useful suggestions for how the list could be improved to ensure it meets the needs of those who use it.
Overall, the key and consistent messages we heard throughout the consultation process were as follows.
The list requires greater clarity around its purpose and intent
There is uncertainty within stakeholders around how the list is being applied by the government, particularly its implications for security and regulatory processes.
The list is too comprehensive. It should be short, sharp, and impact driven
Many stakeholders felt that the list was too long and didn’t adequately prioritise technologies. It was also suggested that the length of the list sent mixed signals to investors. It wasn’t clear which technologies represented the highest priorities, or if technologies on the list would be subject to more scrutiny and regulation.
The list didn’t reflect the potential impact of technology on the environment or society
The list and supporting documents should demonstrate a greater understanding and consideration of the opportunities and risks the technologies pose to the environment and society.
Critical technologies to add or remove from the list
Roundtable participants and stakeholders made a range of suggestions focused on individual technologies, including many suggestions which recommended additions to the list, and a far smaller number of suggestions for technologies to remove from the list.
In analysing the data from stakeholders, the interest in changes to the list differed across the 7 original categories, as shown in Figure 3.
‘Energy and environment technologies’ received the largest number of suggestions for additions and changes to the list. ‘Advanced materials and manufacturing’, and ‘AI, computing and communications’ received the next most substantial volume of feedback.
Regarding specific technology recommendations, the stakeholder feedback was most significant for the following technologies.
- Carbon capture technologies, including sequestration and storage, received the highest number of recommendations for inclusion on the list.
- Renewable energy storage technologies received the second-highest number of recommendations, alongside the repeated endorsement of a variety of energy technologies.
- Semi-conductor technologies were highlighted frequently by participants and were seen as a strategic gap in the ‘Advanced materials and manufacturing’ list.
- Stakeholders recommended that high-impact fields for Australia, such as energy and critical minerals, should include the listing of supplementary recycling and waste management technologies.
- Stakeholders also recommended the inclusion of geospatial, sensing and positioning technologies, for reasons of national defence and security.
Suggestions for renewable energy, energy storage, and emerging emission reduction technologies represent a continuation of feedback received from the consultations on developing the 2021 list. This highlights continued interest in the inclusion and expansion of these technologies, and reflects the global prioritisation of the development of these technologies to address climate concerns.
In addition to suggestions of addition and removal, many participants suggested there should be an increased emphasis on technologies already present in the 2021 list. These submissions expressed concern that the broad scope of the list distracted from areas in which Australia would have a strategic and economic advantage. Conversely, other stakeholders suggested that if the list was intended to capture all relevant critical technologies, it was too narrow and specific in its scope.
Stakeholders also raised concerns that the list may have unintended consequences, such as being a signal that additional regulations or restrictions are required, or that potential international collaboration and foreign investment will be subject to greater scrutiny.
Frequency of updating the list
Regarding the frequency of future updates to the list, most stakeholders (45%) preferred a 2-yearly update schedule. A notable group (36%) preferred an annually updated list. A small group (8%) wished for updates for a less than on an annual period. A minority (11%) expressed a preference for updates every 3 to 5 years.
Critical technologies definitions and profiles
The consultation illustrated that the list and critical technologies profiles are being used in a variety of ways by stakeholders.
- VC firms are using the list and critical technology profiles to guide investment decisions and their consideration of companies to invest in.
- Universities are using the list to guide research alignment and their research risk management and due diligence processes.
- The list and the profiles are also being used to promote STEM opportunities and explain technologies in the National Youth Science Forums, high schools and at tertiary level.
Many stakeholders expressed the need to broaden the scope of the critical technologies profiles content. It was suggested that the content provides a focus on social and environmental applications, opportunities and risks for each technology.
Additional stakeholder feedback
Alongside the feedback for items to include in the list, the Critical Technologies Hub also sought feedback on the list more broadly, and how it can be more effectively used in the future.
Overall, there was a general view that there is an exciting opportunity to promote Australia as a secure destination for investment, research, innovation, collaboration and adoption of critical technologies, and that the list should support this.
Stakeholders provided views related to the list as well as on broader issues.
Issues raised related to the list
Clearly communicate the intent of the list
The consultation feedback indicated that while the current list has served as a reference for defining critical technologies, it lacks sufficient utility for many stakeholders.
Focus the list on enabling and high impact technology for Australia
A number of stakeholders expressed concern that the broad scope of the 2021 list diverted attention away from technologies in which Australia would have a strategic and economic advantage. It was suggested that a list focused on enabling and high impact technologies would serve as a more effective signal to industry, research, and organisations.
Highlight the overlapping applications of technologies across multiple sectors
Many stakeholders expressed concern that the grouping of certain technologies into specialised themes oversimplified the function and application of the technology.
For example, technologies such as AI and data analytics have applications that can be used across all the technological fields and sectors of the economy. To address this, many stakeholders suggested the creation of a critical technology matrix separate to the list, to highlight the broad range of technological opportunities available to Australia and its businesses, and impact across sectors.
Increase the focus on clean energy, environment and emissions reduction technologies
‘Energy and environment’ was the theme most stakeholders engaged with in the 2021 list recommendations. Over 33% of submissions provided direct recommendations of technologies relevant to the ‘Energy and environment’ category. Technologies such as direct carbon capture, renewable energy storage, and resource recycling and waste management were frequently suggested for inclusion by stakeholders.
Broader issues raised
A need to focus on local capability and attracting skilled talent
A number of stakeholders expressed concern that a lack of local capability and the ability to attract and retain skilled talent was holding back the development and uptake of critical technologies. Stakeholders indicated the need for a broader strategy to promote critical technologies in the workforce, so as to realise the potential of these technologies.
Supply chain risks and opportunities
Stakeholders raised concern that Australia exhibited gaps in its critical manufacturing and industrial capacity, and that this should be included when considering national interests and risks. Several stakeholders raised concern that while technologies such as semiconductors may be accessible at present, future supply chain risks could elevate them to the status of a critical technology. As such, it was suggested that semiconductors and other supply chain impacted technologies should be given focus on the list.
A desire for legislative and regulatory guidance on critical technologies
Both domestic and international industry expressed concern that the list would be an ineffective signal for investment if the regulatory and legislative regime for critical technologies was unclear over the longer term.
Stakeholders made a number of other comments and suggestions regarding Australia’s innovation ecosystem, including:
- IP and commercialisation challenges
- access to infrastructure and challenges of scale
- lack of long-term investment for early-stage development
- low levels of technology literacy and social licence
- lack of public support for local innovation.
Based on the feedback and suggestions received from a wide range of stakeholders, the department has developed a more concise and targeted updated List of Critical Technologies in the National Interest. The updated list identifies 7 key enabling technology fields that will have a high impact on our national interest.
The list should be read in parallel with the Critical Technologies Statement, which sets out the government’s vision for seizing the opportunities and managing the risks presented by critical technologies. It outlines the Australian Government’s commitment to stimulate the development, uptake and growth of critical technologies in Australia.
Together with the list, the statement frames our direction and areas of focus. It also aligns with key government activities underway to ensure we capture the opportunities critical technologies bring to support our economic prosperity, national security, and social cohesion.