We are an innovative nation and a fast adopter of technology. International science and technology collaboration is a vital driver of Australian innovation. It enables our research community, including industry, academia and government, to be globally competitive and contribute to world-leading innovation.
International cooperation, especially in the early stages of research and development, allows for significant Australian input into market-shaping technological innovation. Australia's research community is world-leading in many critical technology sectors including advanced materials, the applied use of Artificial Intelligence (AI), autonomous navigation in GPS-denied areas, provable security and compliance, and quantum technologies.
Expanded efforts in science and technology diplomacy aim to promote Australia as a partner of choice for research collaboration, academic exchange programs and capacity building. We will strengthen our involvement in international research networks and promote Australian industry. International cooperation enhances our industry's global reputation and positions our research community to maintain foresight of emerging critical technologies. Australia is mindful of the need to ensure that international research collaboration addresses our strategic interests, and does not see Australian intellectual property diverted to support malign interests.
Overseas markets supply most of our technological requirements at a lower cost and more reliably than we could do alone. This is one of the reasons we remain open to trade and investment, and committed to competitive, open markets and collaborative research.
Taking Australia to the world
Science and technology lift the productivity and competitiveness of the economy. In the face of the most challenging economic circumstances in a century, capitalising on our relative strengths in science and technology innovation is critical for Australia's economic growth. Engaging with international research networks and promoting Australian innovation is key for growing Australia's future.
AUSTRALIA'S TARGETED TALENT EXCHANGE AND STUDENT PIPELINE
Australia recognises the benefit of targeted talent exchange and student pipelines with our international partners. CSIRO's Data61 has been actively developing such partnerships with countries like New Zealand, the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, South Korea, Singapore and India to increase international cooperation on critical technology innovation, including cyber security, the Internet of Things, blockchain, AI and quantum computing.
The Government is committed to the commercialisation of Australian research and innovation. Global supply chains and export opportunities underpin Australia's cyber security and critical technology industry. They prompt Australian businesses to develop new capabilities and provide valuable avenues for commercialisation.
Close cooperation between Government, industry and business associations supports the identification of international market opportunities and the export of domestic innovation and capability. Initiatives such as the Landing Pads program, delivered by Austrade working in partnership with AustCyber, the Department of Defence and CSIRO, has supported cyber security and technology companies to access international opportunities.
To ensure Australian industry can continue to effectively capitalise on these opportunities, we will:
- promote Australian research internationally, including through Australian education exports, and support Australian involvement in international research networks where this is consistent with our national security interests
- support industry-led trade missions to increase the awareness and attractiveness of Australian companies to international customers and investors
- provide export support such as market intelligence and advice
- promote Australian companies as trusted partners within global supply chains
- monitor international technology markets and research networks to identify 'fast follower' opportunities.
Australia's interests in space technology
Space-based critical technologies are essential to our economy and security. We rely on space-based systems such as global navigation, communications and meteorological satellites to enable the full range of conveniences technology brings to daily life.
The Australian Space Agency (ASA) promotes Australian research, industry and innovation space-related critical technologies, and participates in international forums and agreements to strengthen Australia's space capability. ASA, in collaboration with CSIRO and the wider innovation ecosystem, will grow a globally significant Australian space industry that lifts the broader economy. This will be underpinned by strong international engagement, a central focus of the Advancing Space: Australian Civil Space Strategy 2019–2028.
Attracting international talent and investment
The Australian Government fosters Australian innovation in cyber and critical technology by:
- promoting Australia as a safe environment for foreign investment
- showcasing Australia as a location of choice for global cyber security and critical technology companies
- attracting international talent to Australia including through our world-class higher education institutions.
International participation in Australian research and innovation networks is fundamental to our ability to innovate and enhance our prosperity. It enables Australia to make cutting-edge research breakthroughs working in collaboration with others worldwide at the forefront of their field. Similarly, Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) drives economic growth, creates skilled jobs, improves access to overseas markets and enhances productivity.
Without foreign investment, production, employment and income would all be lower. Australian firms with foreign direct investment support one in 10 jobs in Australia. They also make a significant contribution to the one in five jobs that are trade-related. Nevertheless, we must be vigilant in ensuring partnerships and investments do not undermine Australia's national security.
Visa screening for critical technologies is one measure to prevent the unwanted transfer of knowledge which may jeopardise Australia's national security and international peace and stability. A screening process ensures that Australia remains a destination and partner of choice for legitimate international research and collaboration activities, while maintaining the integrity of our research, science, ideas, information and capabilities.
The design, development and use of critical technologies is a growing area of geostrategic competition. The Government works closely with Australian industry, universities and the research community to strengthen cyber security capabilities and build awareness of risks from foreign interference in Australian research. These efforts assist in safeguarding our research ecosystem from foreign interference and are targeted at Australian research networks to protect their integrity and the reliability of Australian companies as partners for international cooperation.
Foreign ownership of key assets, including businesses and entities involved in the development of critical technologies, requires careful consideration to balance our national security and economic needs. Australia will continue to adjust our FDI policies to ensure that they keep pace with emerging risks and global developments.
Changes to Australia's FDI regime will be communicated to provide certainty for investors. This will ensure that Australia continues to successfully attract levels of foreign investment that underpin our economic prosperity without compromising our national security. Proposed investments will be examined in accordance with Australia's open and transparent foreign investment framework.
THE AUSTRALIAN SPACE AGENCY
AUSTRALIA'S FOREIGN INVESTMENT FRAMEWORK
On 5 June 2020, the Australian Government announced reforms to the Foreign Acquisitions and Takeovers Act 1975. The reforms preserve the principles of our system: that Australia welcomes foreign investment for the benefits it provides, but ensures that investments are not contrary to the national interest.
Australia's foreign investment framework will remain open, transparent and welcoming. Key elements of the reforms include:
- a new national security test for foreign investors who will be required to seek approval to start or acquire a direct interest in a 'national security business' – regardless of the value of the investment
- a time-bound 'call in' power enabling the Treasurer to review non-notifiable acquisitions that raise national security risks outside of proposed acquisitions relating to a 'national security business'
- a national security last resort power that provides the ability to impose or vary conditions and in extraordinary circumstances order disposal on national security grounds
- stronger enforcement options including the expansion of infringement notices and higher civil and criminal penalties
- measures to streamline approval for passive investors and investments into non-sensitive businesses.