She will say federal support for R&D is spread across thousands of private-sector projects as well as more than 100 co-operative research centres and projects.
Nations such as South Korea and Israel target their entire R&D budgets at specific sectors. Ms O’Neil will not back such a full direct-investment program but will argue there is scope for Australia to be more targeted.
“There is an opportunity for us to consider whether a more strategic approach may help us get more ridgy-didge innovation out of our investment,” she will argue.
“Instead of letting a thousand (or many thousand) flowers bloom, best-practice countries are driving innovation the opposite way, by focusing policy and spending on a handful of national research and innovation priorities in areas of comparative advantage.”
Ms O’Neil will say that since Malcolm Turnbull’s departure as prime minister, the government has lost interest in innovation in a development that put at risk the nation’s long-term economic future.
“Like house mice, the Liberals briefly appeared in the innovation policy kitchen. But after the scare of the 2016 election, they have not returned,” she will say.
Ms O’Neil’s address comes ahead of an expected major economic speech from Labor leader Anthony Albanese later this month.