CRCs to go the extra mile
Co- operative centres can now accurately determine the benefits of their programs, writes Elizabeth Gosch
AUSTRALIA’S 56 co- operative research centres will be able to assess the economic effect of their outcomes with the help of a new guide put together by the CRC Association.
A federal government study in 2006 showed gross domestic product had increased by almost $ 2.7 billion as a result of the research, training and commercialisation activities of CRCs.
But until now the centres have not had an accurate method of determining the benefits, educational and economic, of their programs. ‘‘ The contribution of CRCs to education in Australia is normally associated with the postgraduate programs that are a core component of every CRC,’’ association president Michael Hartmann says.
‘‘ This ( study), however, highlights specific examples where CRCs have voluntarily gone beyond their brief and instigated initiatives that foster the development of our future science capacity throughout all levels of Australia’s education system.’’
Established in 1990 under the Hawke Labor government, the program was designed to improve the effectiveness of research and development, and bring together researchers and industry.
Hartmann says efforts to combat skills shortages are vital for the prosperity of Australia’s education system and CRCs are a crucial part of those efforts.
‘‘ CRCs are not only the home of Australian innovation, they are also the breeding ground of Australia’s innovators,’’ he says.
Federation of Australian Scientific and Technological Societies president Tom Spurling agrees that CRCs are an important tool to address the skills shortage. He encourages the Coalition and Labor to support more flexible connections with R & D for industry through CRCs. While the political focus has been on the trade skills crisis, he says shortages of engineers, scientists and other professionals are well documented.
‘‘ The 2006 government audit of engineering and science skills demonstrated major and growing skills shortages,’’ Spurling says.
‘‘ There is a concern in the science and technology sectors that the implied competition between university and vocational training approaches is missing the point.
‘‘ Rather than seeing skills in terms of institutional silos, there is a growing industry recognition that new skills arise out of new research and development. The CRCs are a good model to highlight the benefits to firms and industry sectors of close intersection of skills formation from trades to graduate to postgraduate research levels.’’
The CRC Association guide for researchers includes possible benefits from the application of CRC- generated knowledge, such as:
Industry development benefits through commercialisation of products based on CRC work.
Generated knowledge- intellectual property.
Performance gains and cost savings through the application by industry or the public sector.
Sector end users ( including capital and operating cost savings delivered in the public sector) of new or improved products or processes enabled by CRC generated IP. Public health or social welfare gains, mitSigaUtion of envTiroTnmental da mage.