Universities Australia welcomed the opportunity to comment on venturousaustralia, the report of the Review of the National Innovation System ('the Review'), which was released on 9 September 2008. As the Report recognises, Australia's thirty nine universities are a key element of the national innovation system, undertaking a range of roles including teaching, research, research training, cross-sectoral collaboration and commercialisation.
Universities Australia is strongly supportive of the overall direction of the Review report. The Review argues that innovation is critical to Australia's future prosperity, and expresses concern that key indicators such as government support for science and innovation, the number of researchers per 1000 population and number of US patents granted are falling. After strong innovation-led growth in the 1980s and 1990s, `innovation seems to have slowed or even stalled in the new millennium'.
Universities Australia welcomes the strong support given by the Review to universities as the `engine room of innovation' and supports the Review's call for greater investment in research overall and for public funding agencies to meet the full cost of university research without compromising grant success rates. Universities Australia is particularly supportive of recommendations for early career fellowships and raising the annual stipend of the Australian Postgraduate Award. Universities Australia also welcomes the call for additional funding and strategies to promote collaboration and networking, and for the continuation and strengthening of initiatives to support major national research infrastructure.
The major concern that Universities Australia has with the Review report concerns the recommendation that the Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) initiative be used as a basis for funding allocations, when ERA remains an untested measure that is several years from being fully developed. Universities Australia supports a robust and multifaceted set of measures for quality that might include the ERA (once it has been developed) but which should not be limited to a single measure which may have limited validity in terms of research training outcomes in particular.
To read Universities Australia's responseto the report, download the PDF below.