Insight – Artificial intelligence to drive Australia’s economic growth

Artificial intelligence is widely used in Australia, from self-driving trucks in mining to compliance management in finance and tools to support clinical decisions in healthcare.

The use of AI is now set to increase after the Australian Government announced significant funding to grow Australia’s AI capabilities in its latest Budget. This includes:

  • a new National Artificial Intelligence Centre
  • pilot projects between business and industry to create AI-based solutions for national challenges
  • a program to train the next generation of AI specialists
  • grants to develop AI solutions in local and regional Australia.

A forthcoming AI Action Plan will detail the Government’s plan to grow the country’s AI capabilities, underpinned by the initiatives above.

Artificial intelligence is a key pillar in the Government’s Digital Economy Strategy and reflects the growing importance of AI in Australia. According to a 2019 Deloitte report, 79% of Australian organisations believe AI will be ‘very’ or ‘critically’ important to their business.

For this reason, Australia is a great destination to test and validate products with early adopter customers. Organisations in industries from mining to healthcare and financial services are developing and using leading-edge AI to grow and protect their business.

Machine learning in the mining and energy sectors

In the mining and energy sectors, for instance, companies are applying machine learning to increase productivity, drive efficiency and reduce risk. Many have developed their own AI capabilities.

Origin Energy, for instance, developed a world-first AI-driven production optimisation tool. The tool takes data such as pump speed and flow rates and decides which of the company’s 2,000-plus gas wells can be turned down and turned back on again with the lowest probability of failure. This allows Origin to reduce the number of workovers, extend the life of each well and reduce emissions from flaring.

BHP opened the first of its ‘digital factories’ in Brisbane in 2020. Instead of having digital projects delivered by multiple parts of its business, the factory will create a unified ‘community of practice’ among technical roles. In one of its first projects, BHP created an algorithm that told the company the optimal setting for a coal plant, based on the blend of coal coming from the mine.

Organisations are also working with service providers to access talent. Oz Minerals partnered with Australian crowdsourcing provider, Unearthed, to reach out to thousands of data scientists, machine learning specialists and innovators worldwide. It opened up its exploration data and offered a $1 million prize pool to attract innovators, challenging them to build new machine-learning models to help identify new targets for mineral deposits like copper and gold.

Mitigating risk in the financial sector

Australian financial institutions are partnering with regtech companies with AI-led solutions to identify and mitigate risks and manage their compliance obligations. These include anti-money laundering, counter-criminal financing and know-your-customer requirements.

Commonwealth Bank of Australia and ING completed a pilot with regtech firm Ascent Technologies to simplify information processing and regulation implementation. The project used Natural Language Processing and AI to interpret and convert 1.5 million paragraphs of regulation into a bite-sized, actionable tasks for the banks.

The banks used Ascent’s intelligent technology to quickly identify items in the regulation that could be reviewed and actioned, saving hundreds of hours of manual processing.

Using AI to select embryos

Organisations are willing to experiment with advanced AI solutions to deliver better outcomes for Australians. Virtus Health, an Australian assisted reproductive services provider, is leading an international study to determine whether AI can shorten the time it takes a patient to fall pregnant.

The study evaluates the effectiveness of using AI to select embryos. The AI assesses the growth of embryos and allocates an EmbryoScore. The embryo with the highest score can be selected and transferred for implantation. Virtus is partnering with Harrison.ai, a clinician-led healthcare AI company, on the study.

Government support for AI

Australian states and territories also support the growth of AI capabilities and adoption. Examples of state initiatives include:

  • Queensland has an AI Hub to help build AI capabilities and global connections
  • New South Wales released an AI Strategy with five key themes: building public trust, digital uplift, building data capability, procurement, and innovation and collaboration
  • Victoria launched Boab AI, Australia’s first accelerator program to scale up AI companies
  • South Australia built Australia’s first institute dedicated to research in machine learning, the Australian Institute of Machine Learning, with the University of Adelaide.

Austrade: here to help

Australia is a thriving environment for AI and welcomes international investors and partners. Whether your organisation is an AI provider or looking for AI advanced solutions, reach out to Austrade to learn more about what’s happening in AI in Australia and find out how we can help.