The falling numbers for research and science and innovation in the country is a sorry tale, say critics.
The falling numbers for research and science and innovation in the country is a sorry tale, say critics.

Hidden tech giant brings 1200 Aussie jobs

You might not have heard of Infosys but if you fancy a job in IT, you could soon find yourself working for the global technology firm after it announced a push to create 1200 local tech jobs.

Considered a leader in technology consulting and helping companies navigate the digital transformation necessary in modern industries, Infosys is touting plans to boost its Australian presence and help address the digital skills gap in the country.

At an event in Sydney this afternoon alongside the Federal Minister for Industry, Science and Technology, Karen Andrews, the company announced the creation of 1200 jobs as well as the opening of three Innovation Hubs by 2020.

Senior Vice President for Australia and New Zealand at Infosys, Andrew Groth, says it's all about "serving our local customers" and helping organisations upskill to benefit from the digital demands of the future.

"It's about how do we maximise the efficiency of their operations by deploying things like artificial intelligence and automation to increase efficiency, so funding can be directed to some of those new digital areas (that improve outcomes)," he told news.com.au.

Among other things, Infosys helps companies improve their legacy systems by harnessing technologies like cloud computing and machine learning, as well as helping clients gain valuable insights from new sources of data.

The consulting giant has long been operating in Australia, partnering with the likes of Telstra to help its much touted transformation from a pure telco to a more technology-focused company, or with NAB to aid its transition to the New Payments Platform recently rolled out by the RBA, and with Westpac to help deploy initiatives in robotics and automation.

Andrew Groth, senior vice president and regional head of Infosys ANZ.
Andrew Groth, senior vice president and regional head of Infosys ANZ.

This afternoon, the company said it plans to strengthen its academic partnerships to attract top graduate talent and accelerate the building of digital skill in the workforce. But while it was keen to promote the message, details were scarce.

The location and nature of the three Innovation Hubs is yet to be ironed out with local governments, Mr Groth said. Nor could he give details about the types of new collaborations the company is seeking with academic institutions across the country.

WHAT KIND OF JOBS?

Much has been made of Australia lagging behind its global peers when it comes to having the necessary digital skills required for a future workforce.

A global study by storage networking vendor Brocade in 2017 surveyed IT leaders in the US, UK, France, Germany, Australia and Singapore and found many Aussie companies were at a tipping point, as new technology demands outstrip the skills supply. It's a situation Mr Groth says he has seen on the ground.

"There is clearly a shortage of IT skills in Australia," he said. "We've done our own research."

When looking at emerging industries like artificial intelligence, often considered vital to the future of work, it's clear Australia is lacking in maturity, he added.

Of the 1200 jobs Infosys is looking to fill in Australia in the next two years, around 40 per cent will be university graduates from a range of fields including computer science, engineering and design. But it's not just IT skills the company is looking for. Mr Groth said the firm is also after those from a liberal arts background who have a flair for creativity.

Federal Minister for Industry, Science and Technology, Karen Andrews takes a selfie along with Andrew Groth and Infosys’ new recruits.
Federal Minister for Industry, Science and Technology, Karen Andrews takes a selfie along with Andrew Groth and Infosys’ new recruits.

"Building our Australian talent pool is already underway. So far, we have recruited 75 graduates, and more than half have completed their induction training," Mr Groth said.

The company has training centres in Sydney and Melbourne where new recruits can choose from high demand areas, including artificial intelligence, machine learning, user experience design, cyber security, cloud computing and big data.

WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO AUSTRALIA'S INNOVATION AGENDA?

When Malcolm Turnbull came to power in 2015, he threw his full weight behind his innovation and science agenda. Many thousands of dollars of taxpayers' money was spent on TV ads promoting the "Ideas Boom" slogan.

But when the message largely failed to resonate with the public, it quickly faded away. And so to has the government's focus on stimulating growth in innovative fields, including backing away from effort to reform the tax concession for companies that invest in research and development.

Australian venture capitalist Bill Ferris was picked to shape the government's agenda and appointed Chair of Innovation Australia. But speaking to Fairfax over the weekend, he lamented the state of that pledge.

"It's an absolute race to keep at the front of global innovation," he said. But according to figures from the federal Department of Industry, in the past five years, the total spending by both government and the private sector on research and development has fallen from 2.11 per cent of total GDP to 1.88.

In this regard Australia lags far behind countries like Japan, Israel, South Korea, Germany and the US.

"The falling numbers for research and science and innovation in the country is a sorry tale," Mr Ferris noted.



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