$44m for AI and digital capability centres, AI Assurance Framework mandated

Friday, 01 April, 2022

$44m for AI and digital capability centres, AI Assurance Framework mandated

The Australian Government has announced it is investing $44 million to establish four Artificial Intelligence and Digital Capability Centres, which will work alongside the National Artificial Intelligence Centre at CSIRO’s Data61 to strengthen Australia’s AI expertise and capabilities across multiple sectors.

The capability centres are set to drive the commercialisation of Australia’s leading AI research and help to take it to new domestic and global markets. The centres will also give small and medium businesses access to AI expertise that they need to adopt and enable them to use AI solutions to help them grow and create more jobs.

The centres form part of the government’s $124.1 million AI Action Plan, which sets a vision for Australia to be a global leader in developing and adopting trusted, secure and responsible AI. Minister for Science and Technology Melissa Price said the government is delivering on the Action Plan, ensuring Australia is charging ahead in developing and adopting AI products and services.

“The centres will act as a front door for SMEs to improve their AI skills in order to adopt AI products in their businesses,” Price said. “They will draw together industries, research institutions, innovation hubs and businesses to create an ecosystem that drives innovation, commercialisation and adoption of AI.

“Our government will continue to bolster the growth of AI by increasing the sharing of knowledge, supporting shared projects, and promoting long-term job creation. By requiring the centres to focus on a priority area, we can tailor the support for businesses to drive our manufacturing capability.”

Grants of up to $11 million are available for each of the four new centres. Each applicant will nominate a focus area in specific applications of AI that support the government’s National Manufacturing Priorities under the Modern Manufacturing Initiative, or the Digital Growth Priorities under the Digital Economy Strategy, which aims to position Australia as a leading digital economy and society by 2030.

Applicants are required to submit joint applications with at least one industry partner and build on an existing technology, manufacturing hub or university. The applicants must contribute 25% of the total project’s expenditure and may provide additional in-kind contributions. Applications can be found at https://business.gov.au/grants-and-programs/ai-digital-capability-centres.

Separately to this, Australia’s first mandated AI Assurance Framework yesterday came into effect, to ensure increasingly sophisticated AI systems used by agencies across the NSW Government are safe, effective and delivering on state outcomes.

The framework ensures government projects using AI have a set of guidelines to follow, that it is used safely and ethically, and that it can enable efficiencies for agencies to integrate future technologies. It was developed by the NSW AI Advisory Committee, led by NSW Chief Data Scientist Dr Ian Oppermann.

“From diagnosing sepsis in hospital patients to identifying drivers illegally using mobile phones while driving, the NSW Government is already using AI to improve the lives of NSW residents,” Dr Oppermann said.

“As the technology evolves and becomes more sophisticated, the framework will ensure projects remain transparent and include the highest levels of privacy, security and assurance, so customers can feel even more confident when dealing with the NSW Government.”

Dr Oppermann said mandating the framework will ensure all NSW Government services using AI are required to implement strong privacy and data management safeguards. Projects with budgets of more than $5 million or supported by the Digital Restart Fund will also be subject to assessment by the AI Review Committee chaired by Dr Oppermann to ensure compliance.

Image credit: ©stock.adobe.com/au/The KonG

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