CRCs to go the ex­tra mile

Co- oper­a­tive cen­tres can now ac­cu­rately de­ter­mine the ben­e­fits of their pro­grams, writes El­iz­a­beth Gosch

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Research Round - Up -

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.

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