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Bligh puts stamp on Smart State

Resource type: News

The Courier Mail (Australia) |

By Craig Johnstone

THE State Government has moved to wind up the building funds associated with its Smart State agenda, confirming Premier Anna Bligh’s determination to switch the policy’s focus from “bricks and mortar” to people.

Tucked away in this week’s Budget is news that the Smart State Research Facilities Fund, which was used to establish state-of-the-art science and technology infrastructure in Queensland, will be fully committed by the middle of next year.

The Government also has closed off applications to the facilities fund’s successor, the Innovation Building Fund, with the Budget containing no ongoing commitment to the program.

Funding under the facilities fund program will drop from almost $50 million this financial year to just $13.5 million in 2008-09.

The Budget papers explain the reduction by saying it reflects “lower commitments” made under the fund as it “becomes fully committed”.

The facilities fund provided money for 25 building projects valued at $170 million. It was usually a partner with American billionaire Chuck Feeney’s Atlantic Philanthropies fund in helping build research facilities.

Projects included in the last round of the facilities fund program include the Mater Medical Research Institute, the Australian Centre for Marine Science’s Centre for Marine Microbiology and Genetics and the Australian Centre for Aerospace Automation at the Queensland University of Technology.

The Government under Peter Beattie committed $128 million over four years to the facilities fund’s successor, the innovation building fund, in 2005.

That fund was meant to support building new research facilities and also to refurbish existing facilities.

Ms Bligh announced ahead of the Budget that she wanted to put her personal stamp on the Smart State agenda, which had been firmly associated with her predecessor.

The revamp involves setting up a number of high-paying fellowships for mid-career researchers in science and medicine.

It includes more than $23 million to help fund a range of programs including an international fellowships program for researchers wanting to work overseas and a commercialisation fellowships program to help researchers bring their discoveries to the market.