In his speech to the National Press Club today, Professor Glover will urge the political parties to lay out more detail on their respective plans for higher education policy, calling for a sophisticated debate on how to deliver sustainability and stability for the long term.
“Almost two years of policy insecurity and uncertainty is taking its toll on the ability of universities to plan and allocate resources in their student’s best interests,” Professor Glover will say.
“It is difficult to imagine any other industry tolerating such policy instability.
“Yet when it comes to higher education – the majority contributor to Australia’s third largest export industry, the cornerstone of Australia’s innovation future, and a $140 billion contributor to our economy in 2014 – the rules are different.”
Professor Glover will also ramp up the economic case for the R&D tax incentive review – currently underway – to ensure the $2.9 billion-a-year tax break drives stronger rates of research partnerships between business and public research bodies such as universities.
Lifting the numbers of those joint research partnerships would deliver broader ‘spillover’ benefits from research to the wider economy – in addition to the direct benefits of that research to a single firm.
Professor Glover will urge Australia to rethink its comparatively heavy reliance on an indirect tax incentive to foster corporate innovation – and argue the indirect tax break should be complemented by direct payments to businesses that collaborate on research with universities and public researchers.
The current R&D tax incentive accounts for 30 per cent of the Australian Government’s total spending on science, research and innovation – and has doubled over the past decade to reach $2.9 billion a year. Yet over that decade there has been only marginal improvement in Australia’s innovation performance.
While the current scheme offers higher tax concession rates for small and medium sized businesses, he says a lack of programs to encourage those same firms to take innovations developed with universities out into the market is cause for concern.
“Beyond tax incentives, Australia needs to consider seriously whether we have the balance between direct and indirect support for innovation right,” he will say.
He cites as a model the US Government’s Small Business Technology Transfer program, which since its inception in 1994 has been particularly effective at lifting the level of commercialisation for publicly funded research by small and medium-sized businesses.
Professor Glover’s full address to the National Press Club will be published at www.universitiesaustralia.edu.au at 12.30pm on Wednesday.