Canberra has asked maths wizards and rocket scientists at CSIRO – the country’s national science agency – to help Australian business to combat stagnant productivity, launching a $40 million war chest tomorrow.
The fund, which is called the Digital Productivity and Services Flagship, will focus on improving productivity of country’s services sector and helping Australia transition from a resource dependent country to a networked economy.
‘‘We are looking at areas of the services economy which have not shown great increases in productivity over the last decade,’’ said Ian Oppermann, director of the fund. ‘‘We all know that Australia has fared well in the last global financial crisis, thanks to mining. The question really is, what’s next? What are the drivers of prosperity post the mining boom?’’
CSIRO, which stands for Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, has identified four areas of focus for the fund: government services, commercial services, smart infrastructure and health services.
The $1.3 trillion superannuation industry, which is expected to grow significantly, is a special area of interest to CSIRO’s new fund. Dr Oppermann said the science agency could use its considerable expertise in risk modelling to help ‘‘mum and dad investors’’ as well as big institutions to understand risks better.
‘‘One of the challenges is that if someone invents a complex financial package, then there is a window of opportunity that they will sell, exploit and price at a level which person who creates it has an information advantage.’’
CSIRO’s risk modelling could be used to '‘even out’’ that information advantage and ‘‘with the intention of reducing volatility in the market,’’ Dr Oppermann said.
Australian local councils bought risky financial products from American investment banks before the global financial crisis which left them in red.
Dr Oppermann said the fund was also developing technology to squeeze more electronic bits into existing spectrum bandwidth, which is used extensively in mobile and wireless communications.
‘‘Keep the towers, keep the dish and change the electronics, so you can put hundred times more bits through that connection,’’ he said.
CSIRO’s versatile risk modelling expertise could also be deployed to address increasing bottleneck at country’s hospital system.
‘‘Patient admission prediction tool is a very sophisticated modelling tool which helps you to predict how many people are going to turn up in hospitals coming through emergency departments,’’ Dr Oppermann said.
So you know as a ward manager, how many beds you need to keep available and lead to reduced waiting time for patients.’’