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Budget’s AI Investment to Catalyse SME Growth

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Melbourne, Australia

The Federal Government has pledged $1.2 billion in this year’s Budget towards building out a modern and digital economy, with SMEs set to benefit at the centre.

Recognising the potential of ‘transformative’ AI technologies, the funding, as Treasurer Josh Frydenberg put it, will be used to ‘deliver Australia’s first AI action plan’. 

In what’s being hailed as our Digital Economy Strategy, around 15 per cent of the billion-dollar-plus investment will go towards AI research and grants, and setting up a National Artificial Intelligence Centre.

Located at CSIRO’s Data61 in Docklands, Melbourne, the National Artificial Intelligence Centre will support SMEs in harnessing new technologies to grow their business. 

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the Centre will act as a ‘front door’ for Australian businesses looking for expertise, knowledge, and tools to harness AI. 

Moula Chief Product and Data Officer, Paul Pesavento, said we’re just scratching the surface of what Australia can achieve through leveraging AI.

“It has never been easier to start a business, and this year’s Budget goes a long way in making it easier to scale a business with technology,” said Pesavento.

“Tech plays a critical role. On top of removing barriers to entry through initiatives like the Entrepreneurs’ Programme, extending investment incentives, and reducing regulatory burdens, this Budget opens doors to the tech that can help all SMEs scale.”

Currently, much of the investment in AI is concentrated in larger businesses operating in industries such as healthcare and fintech. In partnership with Microsoft, Moula has been using AI, data, and machine learning for several years to assess business loan applications from SMEs.

“AI is transformative for business in the way it speeds up processes and automates manual work, which is exactly what time-poor SMEs want and need,” said Pesavento.

“At Moula, we’ve been using AI to help service our business loan customers faster, bringing our average credit decision time down from 24 hours to less than two. This has enabled us to deliver over $500 million in funding to SMEs.

“We’re proud to see the Government investing in uplifting digital capabilities across Australia, so that adoption isn’t concentrated just among tech companies, but also reaches SMEs who are the engine room of our economy.

“The Digital Economy Strategy is a welcome next step, increasing awareness around the many and varied applications of AI, while democratising solutions to improve industry competitiveness.”

About Moula

Founded in 2013, Moula is committed to backing good business with finance solutions across lending and payments. Moula’s proprietary platform empowers Australian SMEs to access finance on better terms.


Althea Mirvis, Head of Brand and Communications

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