Demand more support for AI start-ups for advanced manufacturing. | So Good News
Industry leaders say Australia should do more to support start-ups and scale-ups eager to explore the advantages of artificial intelligence in high-tech manufacturing.
Instead of investing in legacy businesses to keep them alive. He wants the federal government to provide funding to help small-sector companies compete internationally in some high-tech manufacturing industries.
Artificial intelligence (AI) for higher productivity; Industry leaders say it delivers proven results by reducing costs and improving product quality. However, AI can be a costly experiment for small and medium-sized operations.
Ahead of this year’s federal election, Labor pledged $1 billion in funding for future technologies such as AI. Still, Details on the specifics of the proposed spending are light, with a public consultation on a list of critical technologies of national interest due in early October 2022.
The government’s critical technology profile predicts that AI will dominate all sectors of the economy, including manufacturing, and that AI’s impact on Australia’s economic prosperity will be high.
Melbourne defense and aerospace manufacturing company Sentient Vision received a $2.1 million grant from the federal government in March to fast-track plans for a proposed small-batch manufacturing facility.
Sentient Vision’s visual detection and ranging (ViDAR) detection and reconnaissance components are the world’s first optical radar system. The pods are installed in aircraft and can detect small objects on the surface of the ocean that are invisible to the naked eye.
It is used by the Royal Australian Navy and the US Coast Guard in search and rescue operations for illegal fishing and maritime security operations.
The company has been developing AI surveillance systems for the past 20 years, but now the ViDAR pods can be scaled up domestically for the first time.
Mark Palmer, Sentient Vision’s chief technology officer, said government funding has fast-tracked the company’s growth over five to 10 years.
“We’re a computer software company, and we’ve made software for many years, but we rely primarily on US and European companies to make most of our stuff,” Palmer said.
“That limits us a lot in terms of new designs, so we have a roadmap to bring the whole system in-house.”
As soon as their production facility is up and running, Sentient Vision will use AI while computer modeling and designing their products. Palmer says it’s a “cost-effective” way to test their pods before starting physical work.
He said the federal government should invest more money in helping small companies investigate these types of benefits arising from AI in manufacturing industries.
“When we manufacture things in Australia, we generally do it in smaller quantities because our market is smaller here,” he said.
“If we want to build those companies to be able to manufacture here rather than deploy manufacturing capacity overseas, we have to support small-scale manufacturing, and the best way to do that is with AI.”
In August The Federal Productivity Commission’s last five-year interim report found Australian companies were some of the least likely to use AI globally.
Australia’s Data and Digital Dividend report found that 3 percent of Australian companies are using AI, compared to only 10 percent in Denmark and Finland.
Nukon, a national digital consultancy with an office in Tonsley, helps manufacturers improve productivity by implementing AI into their processes; Consultant Ben Caldwell said it could combat systemic problems such as skills shortages and high labor costs.
This frees up workers who typically perform time-consuming and repetitive tasks and allows them to do other tasks. But he said smaller companies are struggling to raise funds to explore how AI can benefit their business.
“The first AI or machine learning project for a business is the most difficult, but the benefits from it will fund the next one,” Caldwell said.
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“It’s like turning a big flywheel, but big companies can afford to start turning that flywheel, but smaller ones struggle to find the budget and resources to get started with AI.”
Targeted funding to help AI exploration start-ups and small and medium-sized companies will improve competitive advantage, he said.
“I’ve seen more and more happening in the start-up space in recent years… and I think it’s an important place to address these issues.
“I think the problems we want to apply AI to in business are best when we’re not trying to boil the ocean. You’re focusing on a thin slice of the domain, like a well-known problem that’s accumulated data that you’ve been solving manually for years.
“A startup is going to solve those small problems and work for a lot of people that really matter.”
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