In 2008-09, the latest year for which all-sector ABS data is available, Australia spent $27.7 billion on research and experimental development. Just over 60 per cent of this expenditure was by business, 24 per cent by higher education and 12 per cent by governments. Comparing expenditure across countries, Australia's expenditure was 2.20 per cent of its GDP, less than the 2.38 per cent for the OECD as a whole.
Long term and sustainably supported research programs deliver results. They improve the health and well being of the world’s population and produce the new products, industries and services that underpin the industrial transformation of the economy.
International research competition is fierce. Australia enjoys a strong research standing internationally but there is no room for complacency. If Australia is to remain competitive and improve its global standing, there is an urgent need to stimulate and sustain support for Australia’s public research and development capacity. This includes lifting engagement with the private sector, especially business, to create the circumstances where business investment in research and development matches that of leading OECD nations and a number of emerging economies.
It is critical that the public investment in research is predictable and long term. Great discoveries in health care, industrial development and transformation, food quality and yield, and social and behavioural sciences were built on decades of enquiry, understanding and collaborative discovery. The essential groundwork for great discoveries, innovations and the value they generate is not compatible with reactive decisions driven by short-term financial imperatives.