SUBMISSION TO INNOVATION AND SCIENCE AUSTRALIA 2030 STRATEGIC PLAN ISSUES PAPER

June 2017

Universities Australia thanks Innovation and Science Australia for the opportunity to provide input into their 2030 Strategic Plan. 

Universities play a significant role in innovation, science and research in this country, making major contributions to Australia’s economic and social well-being. We educate the future workforce, are the key driver of Australia’s research effort, and we are developers, shareholders and supporters of innovative and entrepreneurial businesses.

We look forward to continuing to work as an integral part of the science, research and innovation ecosystem.

THE ROLE OF UNIVERSITIES

A profound shift is underway across the Australian economy. As the mining investment boom recedes, we face an urgent task to broaden growth and diversify the economy.

Decisions taken now will shape Australia’s living standards, job security and social cohesion in the years ahead.

Around the world, constrained public budgets and global uncertainty have become fixtures. Governments at home and abroad are wrestling anew with budget priorities. Yet, despite these challenges, smart nations continue to invest strategically in higher education, research and innovation. They are doing so to ensure their citizens aren’t left behind by sweeping forces of globalisation and technological change. 

Such investments are a down payment on a future with more higher-wage jobs, skilled and smart workforces and greater productivity gains. They are also indispensable to the major research breakthroughs needed to create new jobs and new industries for Australia.

The types of skills and knowledge acquired through a university education will become increasingly essential. This is true not just for individuals – but for communities, companies, industries, and the national economy. Having a highly-educated workforce is essential to lift overall national prosperity and the living standards of all Australians. 

It is a key ingredient in the Government’s desire to diversify the economy, stimulate long-term growth and deliver jobs in the cities and the regions.

In this context, universities are the engines of Australia’s future economic growth. They integrate education with research, and are the incubators for innovators as well as innovations. They are the essential infrastructure of this new era.

FRAMEWORK

The Commonwealth has a range of initiatives that are encouraging universities and industry to collaborate. These include programs both inside and outside the National Innovation and Science Agenda, such as:

•  revised research grant programs for universities, including the Research Support Program and the Research Training Program;
•  the Engagement and Impact assessment of universities;
•  the ARC Linkage Project grants moving to a continuous submission process;
•  improved funding for work-integrated-learning units for undergraduates;
•  investing in industry internships for PhD students;
•  allocating operating funding for the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy;
•  Smart Cities program and establishing the University Precincts Advisory Committee;
•  establishment of the Advanced Manufacturing Fund; and
•  expansion of the Cooperative Research Centres program.

The National Innovation and Science Agenda provides a valuable framework for some, but not all of these programs. Universities Australia urges Government to produce an overarching collaboration strategy that will bring together the range of programs and projects aimed at boosting industry/academic collaborations into a fully-fledged innovation system. The strategy should take into account the role of State and local governments as well as the Commonwealth. This will allow gaps in the system to be identified and filled, and result in a cohesive, comprehensive collaboration and innovation system for Australia. 

For the full report, click here (PDF 277.5KB).