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Australia PM pledges A$1.1 billion to boost flagging innovation

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Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's government will inject A$1.1 billion (S$1.13 billion) over the next four years to boost innovation and scientific research in Australia.

[SYDNEY] Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's government will inject A$1.1 billion (S$1.13 billion) over the next four years to boost innovation and scientific research in Australia.

Under the National Innovation and Science Agenda unveiled on Monday, early-stage investors in certain startup firms will get A$106 million in tax incentives including an exemption from capital gains tax. The government will also spend A$459 million to improve research facilities and a further A$127 million on research grants.

"Australia is falling behind on measures of commercialisation and collaboration," Mr Turnbull said in a statement. "Our appetite for risk is lower than in comparable countries, which means Australian startups and early-stage businesses often fail to attract capital to grow." Since becoming prime minister three months ago, Mr Turnbull has sought to foster innovation in an economy challenged by waning Chinese resource demand and falling national income. The government currently invests A$9.7 billion a year in science and wants to increase industry-driven research and development.

Under the plan announced Monday, the government is seeking to focus on improving talent and skills, commercialising research, raising capital and encourage risk-taking.

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Australian school students underperform in science and mathematics tests compared with every other high-income economy in Asia apart from New Zealand, according to a report by the 34-nation OECD. The nation ranks in the bottom seven countries based on government spending on research and development as a proportion of gross domestic product, according to the latest OECD scoreboard.

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