The Cooperative Research Centres Association (CRC Association) has urged government to pursue policy interventions that are shaped for Australia’s unique circumstances and strengths in its submission on the University Research Commercialisation consultation paper.
CRC Assocation CEO, Jane O’Dwyer, said that the Cooperative Research Centres Program (CRC Program) was an Australian success story.
“The first CRCs were established 30 years ago this year, and the program is highly respected internationally as an exemplar for fostering medium to long-term research collaboration between universities and industry. Successive reviews have found it to generate real benefit to Australia,” she said.
The CRC Program leverages government financing with co-investment from industry and universities. This return, on average, is three times the value of the Commonwealth’s contribution – a real economic benefit to Australia.
“We will have succeeded in research transformation when a greater proportion of Australian businesses are willing and able to take calculated risks by investing in R&D and collaboration with research institutions as a core activity. This requires exposure to and trust with research institutions.”
“Cooperative Research Centres address this challenge by exposing companies to the research sector in a structured way that de-risks investment and fosters the development of long-term collaborative relationships that go beyond the innovations that emerge from the program. It is striking the number of very long-term collaborative partnerships between universities and industry trace their genesis back to a CRC.
“We urge government to build upon success by enhancing the CRC program, and ensuring that any new scheme compliments or builds upon that success and learnings, rather than risk dissipating or losing the momentum and capacity it has created.”
In the response, the CRC Association has recommended the following:
- Ensure adequate funding for fundamental research
A robust system for supporting fundamental research is the bedrock upon which an innovative economy is built. Continuing to fund it at a sufficient level is vital to Australia’s global competitiveness and ensures a pipeline for future applied research.
- Build scale for collaborative research by scaling the CRC Program
The CRC program does not operate on the scale of programs overseas. We propose scaling that impact by boosting the program and putting in place flexible pathways for post-CRC innovation.
- Draw upon the success and experience of CRC participants
Establish a Commercialisation Fellows Program, drawing upon the more than 4000 people who have completed PhDs and Postdoctoral studies in a CRC, which would help to develop these skills and increase the importance of this kind of position.
- Ensure a mixture of mission-driven and serendipitous discovery
The development of Missions or other clearly set research priorities is welcomed, if itis balanced with support for serendipitous discovery and capacity for step-change rather than incremental change.
- Incentivise collaboration with a commercial focus
While the discussion paper proposes incentivising industry through a new Scheme, we would propose that the R&D Tax Incentive (R&DTI) be revisited as an incentive for industry both to invest in collaborative research, and in industrial PhD programs and employment.
- Create innovation and collaborative capacity through the development of industrial PhD programs
Investment in Industrial PhDs puts industry at the heart of the Government’s scientific agenda. We support the creation of a PhD program that requires candidates to spend the majority of their PhD undertaking research for an industrial organisation partnered with their university.
The CRC Association represents CRCs, universities, post-CRC entities and companies, CRC-Ps and related businesses. Its members are a lynchpin in the Australian innovation system. They are focused on creating new value in our economy for the benefit of all Australians and represent an estimated $4 billion in collective investment in innovation and commercialisation between industry, universities and other research institutions, and the Australian Government.
The Cooperative Research Centres Association submission can be found here
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