Research route to stronger economy
The Group of Eight universities have called on the federal government to boost support for early stage research commercialisation with more funding and closer cooperation between universities and business.
In its submission to the government’s review of university research commercialisation, the Go8 recommended a translational research fund be set up to mirror the successful Medical Research Future Fund, focusing on general science and technology, rather than health.
Go8 chief executive Vicki Thomson said the review was a “unique opportunity to effect significant change”.
“A committed ‘Team Australia’ approach is necessary, so that the three sectors — universities, business, government — work genuinely together to build a stronger Australian economy,” she said. “To draw together and capitalise in the long-term on the thinking and building blocks discussed, the Go8 recommends the government establishes an Australian Translational Research Fund, at the heart of which is a nexus of people, ideas, and funding.”
The group called for enhanced “proof of concept” funding to support research at the early stage.
“This is where there are the highest risks and the greatest chances of falling into the socalled ‘ valley of death’,” the Go8 said. It also said universities needed to give their researchers more incentive to work with industry.
In its submission to the review, the Australian Technology Network of Universities called for an increased level of research funding to increase the output of discoveries and innovation that have commercial potential.
It also said investment in research and education should be more aligned with innovation and high-value industries and there should be additional support for commercialisation activities which build partnerships between universities and business.
The ATN also recommended “collaborative learning hubs” that co-located industry, education and training organisations and encouraged more enterprise-based learning.
It said any new research commercialisation scheme needed to be broadbased.
“In addition to direct funding, the scheme will need to be supported by training and capability building across the board — including researchers, commercialisation experts, industry partners, students and graduates,” the ATN said in its submission.
Representing all universities, Universities Australia said businesses needed more incentives to collaborate with universities, and recommended a scheme to assist small to medium enterprises to deal with the risk and expense of developing research outcomes into saleable products and services.
UA also called for a commonwealth-backed program of innovation vouchers that rewarded small businesses for collaborating with university researchers.
It also drew attention to the German Steinbeis program, which disseminated academic findings, specialised knowledge and technology from universities to industry.
UA also called for improvements in the measurement of research commercialisation.
In its submission, the Co-operative Research Centres Association called on the government to boost collaborative research with industry by boosting the CRC program. It said that, because the CRC program combined government financing with contributions from industry and universities, the return was, on average, three times the value of the commonwealth’s contribution.