Tech and innovation must be at the heart of the COVID-19 recovery – The Australian Financial Review

The momentum of these trends will continue to build as we recover, and the strength of our national recovery is contingent on our capacity to capture that momentum.

Heather Ridout is a company director with a long history as a leading figure in the public policy debate in Australia. 

We must support and nurture emerging technology to drive economic growth both within technology companies, and across the economy as business sectors will rely on emerging technologies to transform.

Not that long ago there were fewer than 10 listed technology companies on the ASX with a market cap over $1 billion. Today there are more than 30. We must shrug off our historical ambivalence towards emerging technology and embrace it as a primary job creation mechanism of the post-COVID-19 economy.

This will allow us to pursue more resilient and self-reliant supply chains in critical sectors.

The importance of this is starkly illustrated in the COVID-19 vaccine rollout. Having a domestic manufacturing and supply chain capability in the form of CSL and its delivery partners has given Australia an enviable self-reliance. Building secure, self-reliant supply chains and capabilities for current and emerging critical industries should remain a major focus at a national level.

Contained in all this is a pervasive challenge that – like most challenges – is also an opportunity if we address it correctly. The digitisation of business has been accompanied by an escalation in the number and type of cyber security threats. Australia’s rapidly evolving domestic capability in cyber security must be preserved and extended in order to counter these threats.

Security is horizontal for all business. Economic growth depends on business digitisation, which is itself dependent on cyber security. Resilient supply chains must be digitally and physically secure. And our emerging technology industries – the engine room of the new economy – must be secure by design.

In my time on the board of AustCyber, I have seen our cyber security industry evolve rapidly. We have turned an $800 million industry in 2018 into one worth more than $3 billion today. We have developed training infrastructure through Box Hill TAFE and other projects nationally to power this growth.

Now that organisation is taking the next step to serve the emerging and critical security ecosystem by merging with another not-for-profit, Stone & Chalk, which specialises in emerging technology commercialisation. This is not a decision that was taken lightly but was one that, after careful consideration, I was proud to endorse unreservedly.

Australia’s future is in the new economy. Advanced manufacturing, automation, artificial intelligence, financial technology, industry digitisation and, yes, cyber security, will be the engine room of job creation in the coming decades.

Creating a commercially vibrant, resilient national capability in all of these technologies will ensure that our legacy businesses can transform, our entrepreneurs can succeed and our nation can prosper.

If we remain reliant on global providers for this technological capability we will be forever catching up. The integrated organisation that I will be involved in will see us lead. With the right commercial infrastructure for critical and emerging technologies, Australian industry will build the future instead of waiting to purchase it.


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