Australian government opens new IT research centre

The Commonwealth Government has opened a new research commercialization and education training centre in Sydney, to be run by the recently established industry group, National Information and Communications Technology Australia (NICTA).

Based in the Australian Technology Park in Redfern, NICTA will enhance Australia’s technology research by creating links between universities, governments and the private sector.

The Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts and the Australian Research Council are contributing A$129.5 million (US$78.4 million) over five years for the establishment of the centre.

Federal Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, Senator Richard Alston, told ARN that NICTA gave Australia the focus it had never had before in this area of development.

“NICTA is the centrepiece of the Commonwealth Government’s A$3 billion innovation statement ‘Backing Australia’s Ability’,” he said.

The group’s founding members are the Australian National University, the University of News South Wales, the NSW Government and the ACT Government. They are committing an additional A$100 million to the centre.

NSW Minister for Information Technology and Management, Kim Yeadon, said the NSW Government contribution of A$20 million to the centre over five years is the largest investment ever made in a technology project of this kind.

“A National Information Communications Technology Centre of Excellence will generate more than 1000 jobs over the next 15 years and improve technology education,” he said.

NICTA will focus on research of the highest international standard and scale, facilitate the commercialization of research, and enhance the research training of research and development professionals.

Speaking to ARN, Federal Minister for Education, Science and Technology, Brendan Nelson, described the centre as fundamental infrastructure for Australia.

Nelson said that the US had put a lot of effort into Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in the last decade. Australia now wanted to do the same.

“It means that now we have a critical mass of people who can research the Information Technology (IT) industry in the future,” Nelson said. “Our mission will be to have IT research given the same amount of importance that other industries have.”

NICTA CEO, Professor Brian Anderson, said NICTA would employ more than 300 researchers and create about 500 new PhD places over the next 10 years.

“National ICT Australia will act as a catalyst to improve the quality of ICT research education in Australia by introducing an enhanced PhD program that will build on the current strength of PhD education,” Anderson said.

“It will supplement the strength of current Australian PhD programs through training in business creation and intellectual property management and the placement of PhD students in leading international laboratories.”

Anderson said that NICTA would have a strong in-house research program and develop projects in collaboration with a range of ICT research and commercial organizations.

“NICTA will establish processes to enable collaborative projects with industry and other organizations that allow joint wealth creation,” he said.

Both Senator Alston and Professor Anderson confirmed that all profits made by NICTA would be reinvested back into the centre for further research and development of the program.