In its submission on the Draft 2016 National Research Infrastructure Roadmap, Universities Australia has welcomed moves to develop a clearer investment plan to amplify Australia’s research edge.
But UA has warned that opportunities will be lost if a decision to axe the $3.7 billion Education Investment Fund (EIF) – announced in the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook (MYEFO) – proceeds.
“Removal of the EIF would be a body blow to the ability of Government, universities and industry to invest in education and research,” the UA submission cautions.
The Roadmap sets out Australia’s long term research infrastructure needs and proposes nine priority areas of research for future investment.
It suggests Australia should focus on its existing edge – or build new research strengths – in fields including digital data research, developing new medical therapies and medical devices, building advanced manufacturing, and biosecurity systems to protect vital industries including farming.
Universities Australia welcomes the outline of a plan to guide major investments in the research infrastructure needed to generate future income for the country.
We congratulate Chief Scientist Alan Finkel and the expert panel on their thoughtful and visionary work.
Yet UA remains concerned that the proposed closure of EIF would mean a lack of long-term funding for another key part of Australia’s research infrastructure – our world-leading university research centres.
Universities Australia Deputy Chief Executive Catriona Jackson urged the Turnbull Government to rethink its plans to proceed with the closure of the fund.
“This is about planning for the kinds of fundamental science and research tools that we need to strengthen our future economy, secure jobs for the next generations and improve lives,” Ms Jackson said.
“There is a vital leadership role for government in planning for these future needs and ensuring that those plans are properly funded – sustainably and over the long-term.”
The submission notes that uncertainty is “a major threat” to research with far-reaching consequences for innovation, industry and Australia’s international competitiveness.
“The international education market contributes $20 billion a year for Australia. But if we don’t have the right teaching and research facilities, those international students and researchers will simply go elsewhere,” Ms Jackson said.
“We understand that there are real pressures on the federal Budget but this is about investment in Australia’s future prosperity.”
“Without an investment plan, we won’t be able to help improve the Budget bottom line in the long-term by driving new industries and generating new sources of revenue for Australia’s economy.”
Over 35,000 Australian researchers rely on major Australian research facilities, which include those funded under the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS), the Australian Synchrotron and OPAL Research, and large-scale international collaborations such as the Square Kilometre Array.
Read the submission here.