Why the right research infrastructure will deliver jobs and innovation 

29 June 2018

Senator the Hon Michaelia Cash, Minister for Jobs and Innovation

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Access to world-class equipment and facilities is critical to keeping Australia at the forefront of advanced science, research and innovation in an increasingly competitive global environment.

Australia boasts elite researchers working at the cutting-edge of their respective fields – from astronomy to medicine, and from marine science to advanced materials. Our businesses, universities and research organisations are among the best in the world. We have a history of facing challenges, coming up with bright ideas and solving problems.

This is reflected in the wealth of inventions we have given to the world that have revolutionised the way we live. Plastic bank notes, the cochlear implant, the blackbox flight recorder, the ultrasound scanner and the development of WiFi are all Australian.

Australian ingenuity was responsible for the keeping the flies away from a young Queen Elizabeth during a round of golf at Royal Canberra Golf Course in the 1960s. The ‘new’ fly repellent the Queen was testing for CSIRO researchers went on to be commercialised by the Mortein company – and Aerogard was born!

To build on Australia’s long national history of achievement, we need to maintain the continued transfer of knowledge between researchers and industry. We must ensure that Australians have the technology and expertise required to develop new products, and our research institutions remain modern.
Cutting-edge research translates into productivity gains for businesses and more jobs for Australians.

To achieve this, we must maintain the right infrastructure to support learning and keep pace on a global scale.

Maintaining the right infrastructure is not only about the 150,000 research jobs it supports. The right infrastructure is a pre-requisite to the countless jobs that the results of our research create – especially in small businesses – across every sector of the economy.

The recent Federal Budget featured a great deal of investment to grow research in Australia.
Front and centre is a commitment of $1.9 billion for our National Research Infrastructure over the next 12 years.

This injection of funding will maintain and secure world-class, high-quality facilities across Australia to fuel breakthroughs in technology and knowledge.

Over 40,000 people use these facilities annually. They allow businesses to create and test new ideas and improve existing processes and products. This is the work that fuels future economic growth and job creation.

Funding for our National Research Infrastructure will have positive impacts across an immense range of areas.

For example, it will help us deepen our understanding of the largely unexplored frontiers of our oceans by expanding the operations of CSIRO’s marine research vessel, the RV Investigator, to a total of 300 days per year.

It will support construction of advanced fabrication facilities to design and manufacture the next generation of devices at the nanoscale. It will help us stay at the forefront of the quantum computing revolution – leading the race to build the world’s first ever quantum computer. It will harness the opportunities of space, through building CubeSats and other space-based instruments.

It will also allow us to expand our unique nuclear capabilities to drive world-leading advances in biotechnology, agricultural, chemical and material sciences – and to help our nuclear science agency, ANSTO, to keep producing its nuclear medicines that are already saving lives every day, right across the world.

These investments will facilitate exciting discoveries and innovation, and the impacts will be evident across the Australian economy.

For example, Bioplatforms Australia is partnering with the Australian Wine Research Institute in South Australia to enhance wine yeast fermentation. This is helping Australian winemakers cater to the preferences of new and lucrative markets by using technologies and recent developments in systems biology.
This new funding complements the Turnbull Government commitment made back in 2015 to research, innovation and science, under the National Innovation and Science Agenda. That commitment included $1.5 billion over 10 years to keep facilities running, $520 million funding for the Australian Synchrotron and $294 million for hosting the Square Kilometre Array – which, when complete, will be among the most significant science infrastructure projects the world has ever seen.

This funding also builds on recent announcements of $70 million for the Pawsey Supercomputing Centre in Perth and $70 million for the National Computational Infrastructure at the ANU. High performance computers are crucial pieces of research infrastructure, and we have ensured the future of these tremendously important facilities is secure.

With the 2018–19 Budget, the Coalition Government’s support for critical research infrastructure has now risen to over $4 billion.

Our work does not stop here.

The Turnbull Government will continue to put in place the right settings to allow our nation to be more competitive, and to build on its longstanding reputation for world-class research and innovation.

I am encouraged by the warm response we have already received – publicly and privately – from the science community, including the Australian Academy of Science and Science & Technology Australia. I am also grateful for the invaluable support of the Chief Scientist, Dr Alan Finkel AO, throughout the policy development process.

After all, the interface between education, research and industry is the cornerstone of economic growth, and the driver of the jobs of the future.

The Turnbull Government’s vision is for a confident, outward-looking economy underpinned by a strong research sector – to drive business success, and provide jobs and opportunities for all Australians.