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NICTA on the budget chopping block

Current funding deed to be its last

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Updated The research house that gave the world the first provably secure operating kernel, and has been in the engine room of other IT application innovations in bionic vision, logistics, mapping and hundred-Terabit optical networking, is under threat under the 2013 Federal Budget.

Funding for NICTA, funded through the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy's ICT Centre of Excellence program, is to end when its current funding deed expires at the end of 2015.

In previous budgets, the program was expected to continue funding levels of the order of $AU20 million after 2015, but the DBCDE budget papers now state that funding for the program will be phased out.

While the program's commercial revenue has been growing – it's expected to reach $AU10.8 million in the 2014-2015 financial year – the only way the NICTA could exist absent government support would be if it could greatly expand its commercialisation.

Apart from the provably secure kernel, which was snapped up by General Dynamics, other spinoffs include:

  • Mobile video startup Incoming which secured more than a million dollars in funding from OneVentures and Citrix Startup Accelerator
  • Saluda Medical, which is researching neural stimulation for pain management
  • Scalify, which opened for beta testing in March hoping to attract game publishers to its P2P networking platform. It attracted $2 million from Starfish Ventures during 2012.

For one of the government's smaller budgetary commitments, NICTA seems to be a fairly effective way to fund R&D, bringing in a dollar for every two spent.

The Register has sought comment from NICTA and communications minister, Senator Stephen Conroy.

NICTA has stated that it was not anticipating funding beyond 2015. The Minister's office is yet to respond. ®

Update: Senator Conroy's office has replied to The Register:

"NICTA is funded in the budget for the 13/14 and 14/15 financial years, with future funding to be considered in the context of next year's budget.

"The Government has a long-standing history of support for NICTA and the groundbreaking research and innovation it undertakes."

The Register notes, however, that the 2012-2013 budget forward estimates included funding for NICTA through 2016, which has been removed from the forward estimates in the 2013-2014 budget. We have sought further clarification on this point. ®

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