September 29, 2020

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Victoria government invests heavily in AI

The Victorian Government recently announced it would contribute $1.5 million to the establishment of Australia’s first multimillion-dollar accelerator and investment fund for Artificial Intelligence (AI) scaleups.

Backed by LaunchVic, Victoria’s startup agency, Boab AI in partnership with Artesian, Victorian universities and Artesian’s international partner programs will unlock millions of dollars of private sector capital to help high growth AI scaleups.

Artificial Intelligence uses data to build systems that simulate human intelligence processes. There are more than 300 AI start-ups in Australia – including 65 in Victoria – applying AI in sectors ranging from health care and medicine to transport, agriculture, recruitment and construction.

One of these ground-breaking companies is a Melbourne start-up that has developed a low-cost skin cancer check which applies data to an image sent from a smartphone to calculate a risk profile and prepare the picture for a doctor’s diagnosis.

Another is a Bundoora-based firm whose cloud-based Alfie tool provides automated image analysis that can be used in the agriculture sector to help control feral animals and protect native species.

As part of the new accelerator and investment program, set to be rolled out by the end of the year, Artesian will invest a minimum of $8 million of private sector capital in 32 AI scaleups – with a minimum of $300,000 for each scaleup that graduates from the Boab AI program.

Artesian will also establish and raise a new venture capital (VC) fund with a target of $50 million to provide ongoing investment support for AI scaleups.

The new accelerator program will establish an AI internship program, run community-focused AI events and create over 75 new jobs through Boab AI and participating AI scaleups over four years.

The lack of funding available to startups in the early stages of their lifecycle has been identified by LaunchVic as a major impediment to startup growth in Victoria.  Artificial Intelligence is projected to become a major global market, adding $15 trillion of value to the world economy by 2030 and generating 161,000 new jobs.

The Minister for Innovation, Medical Research and the Digital Economy stated that Artificial Intelligence is rapidly transforming the global economy, creating new opportunities, industries and jobs.

This funding will help to position Victoria as a leading destination for AI technology within the Asia Pacific region, attracting and developing the best talent, investment and AI expertise.

The LaunchVic Chief Executive stated that Victoria has the strong foundations to support a growing AI ecosystem with many of its dominant tech sectors providing a great opportunity for AI integration.

Overall, there is a lack of general awareness as to the huge potential this sector presents in terms of problem-solving to the broader community. The new program will ensure Victoria is competitive and forward-looking.

The investment is timely. According to one article, Australia needs to look beyond roadmaps and encourage business to invest in artificial intelligence, tech community leaders warned.

The Associate Dean of Research Strategy and Management at UTS, on a news television panel, had said that while Australia leads the world in AI research on a per-capita basis, a failure to commercialise academia’s work threatens the nation’s position.

He noted, “I believe we have a long way to go to increase our investment in AI. It’s really great to look at roadmaps because they are a snapshot of the current status.”

“By ranking of the number of scientific publications and the research output we create in this country, we are number one by capita. The challenge there is the translation of that research. We have the top-ranking by research in the world in AI – the next big step is investing and growing that pie.”