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Secretary's review

A technician inspects electrical equipment.

The Department of Industry and Science became the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science as a result of the Administrative Arrangements Order made on 21 September 2015. That included responsibility for northern Australia policy and coordination and national issues relating to the digital economy being transferred to the department in September 2015.

The department’s vision is to enable growth and productivity for globally competitive industries by supporting innovation, science and commercialisation; growing business investment and improving business capability; streamlining regulation; and building a high performance organisation. More information on these four strategic objectives is set out in the department’s strategic plan.

Over the past year we increased our role in developing and delivering whole-of-government policies that are at the heart of the government’s economic reform agenda, while placing our customers and stakeholders at the core of our business.

A great deal of strategic policy work was undertaken within a short time frame, culminating in the announcement of the National Innovation and Science Agenda in December 2015, with the department playing a critical role in coordinating its delivery across multiple portfolios. We are bringing together the blueprint for building a more innovative Australia that will position the country to seize the next wave of economic prosperity. The National Innovation and Science Agenda focuses on four pillars: culture and capital; collaboration; skills and talent; and government as an exemplar.

In its role as a policy influencer the department made a substantial contribution to obtaining state and territory government support for sweeping reforms to country of origin food labelling—reforms that will give Australian consumers clearer and more meaningful information about the products they buy.

The department coordinated the implementation of the White Paper on Developing Northern Australia, including the establishment of the Office of Northern Australia as a conduit between all levels of government, industry and the people of northern Australia.

To improve the experience of customers and streamline grants processing, we put in place a whole-of-government grants administration hub—the Business Grants Hub—to provide a consistent, customer-focused approach to the design, delivery, management and evaluation of business grants programmes.

During 2015–16, the department’s work to support the government’s economic agenda also included:

  • implementing the Industry Growth Centres Initiative, which is increasing collaboration and commercialisation, building management and workforce skills, improving capabilities to engage with global supply chains and international markets, and addressing the regulatory cost on industry
  • implementing the Automotive Diversification Programme to help innovative firms in the automotive supply chain diversify into new products and markets
  • supporting regions undergoing structural change by assisting businesses to innovate and expand, invest in new technology and explore new avenues of competitive advantage to secure their sustainable growth in the future
  • guiding major developments in Tasmania and northern Australia through regulatory approval processes via the Major Projects Approval Agency
  • developing a National Energy Productivity Plan for the Council of Australian Governments’ (COAG) Energy Council, to lift Australia’s energy productivity by up to 40 per cent by 2030, help business and households manage their energy costs and contribute to meeting Australia’s 2030 emissions target
  • working with states and territories to develop the COAG Energy Council’s Gas Supply Strategy, to improve collaborative efforts between jurisdictions on scientific and regulatory issues associated with onshore gas
  • supporting the Independent Review of Governance Arrangements for Australia’s Energy Markets, which identified opportunities for improvement in the way the COAG Energy Council, its officials and institutions operate
  • implementing reforms to modernise Australia’s anti-dumping system and level the playing field for Australian manufacturers and producers
  • ensuring the ongoing operation of the Synchrotron and the Square Kilometre Array—critical research tools needed to advance cutting-edge science
  • identifying a single site for a national radioactive waste management facility for further consideration and community consultations
  • continuing Questacon’s engaging formula of hands-on science discovery, which was recognised with a silver award in the Tourist Attraction category at the 2015 Australian Tourism Awards
  • implementing changes to the Cooperative Research Centres (CRC) Programme, including creating the new CRC-Projects stream for short term activities with a focus on involving small and medium-sized enterprises
  • focusing on innovation and entrepreneurship through the flagship Entrepreneurs’ Programme.

Many of these programmes were facilitated and enhanced by continued efforts to make our services easier to find and understand, quicker and easier to access, and more tailored to business needs. Specifically, the department is enhancing its capability to deliver services to businesses through the Single Business Service programme of work. This includes the development of a new platform that enables more effective management of customer relationships and a new business.gov.au website with user-tested design and features.

Our people continue to be our greatest strength and we have built on our achievements to shape a workplace committed to attracting, developing and retaining the right people with the right skills. These efforts are supported by the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science Enterprise Agreement 2016–2019, which came into effect in April 2016.

To empower staff to innovate as we do our business, we have made high-value datasets accumulated in the department over many years openly available internally. We have also strengthened our evidence-base through use of the Business Longitudinal Analytical Data Environment (BLADE), which integrates administrative data on businesses from a range of government agencies and helps us to understand the economic drivers of business performance in Australia. We continued to produce key statistical and economic publications to support the department’s work, including the Industry Monitor, Australian Industry Report, Australian Innovation System Report, Gas Market Report and Energy in Australia, which are available on the department’s website.

In 2016–17 the department will continue to implement and consolidate many of the initiatives I have already mentioned, such as implementing the National Innovation and Science Agenda, including assisting the government’s response to the review of the R&D Tax Incentive, and implementing the White Paper on Developing Northern Australia.

The Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility will begin offering concessional loans, partnering with the private sector to finance major economic projects for the long-term expansion of industry to benefit the population in northern Australia. We will also continue to work with the communities to secure a site for a national radioactive waste management facility.

In delivering the $100.5 million Exploring for the Future programme, Geoscience Australia will work closely with communities during the course of their field work. They will engage contractors and work collaboratively with the geological state and Northern Territory survey organisations to utilise their extensive networks for working with local communities.

We will continue work we have started with the Business Grants Hub to deliver streamlined and simpler services and information to businesses and help them to get on with doing business.

We will also have an increased focus on delivering shared and common services to contribute to the government’s aim of increasing their effectiveness, efficiency and value for money.

Through our new BizLab innovation hub we will be placing increased emphasis on design thinking and the ‘Agile’ methodology of delivery to develop better solutions for businesses and the department.

Following the Federal election, we will deliver and support the government’s election commitments and priorities.

The department will continue to build its capability by implementing its People Plan 2016–2020.