Action Plan to promote research-industry commercialisation

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The federal government has announced a $2.2 billion University Research Commercialisation (URC) Action Plan designed to put university innovation and industry collaboration front and centre of Australia’s economic recovery.

Acting education minister Stuart Robert said the Action Plan sets out the reforms designed to support the translation of Australian research into new commercial products.

“This Action Plan provides an overarching strategy for research commercialisation to create the next generation of great Australian products and companies. It is supported by our captains of industry and research, and backed by $2.2 billion in new investment,” said Minister Robert.

The reforms are focused on four areas - national manufacturing priorities, priority-driven schemes to promote commercialisation, university research funding reform to strengthen incentives for collaboration with industry and investing in people.

The reforms include $243 million over five years to boost prioritised R&D and drive commercialisation outcomes with industry partners, $1.6 billion over 10 years for Australia’s Economic Accelerator, $150 million to expand the CSIRO Main Sequence Ventures program, $296 million to be invested in 1,800 industry PhDs and over 800 in fellows over 10 years, as well as the creation of a new IP Framework for universities to support greater university-industry collaboration and the uptake of research outputs.

“Our universities generate exciting, world-leading research, while Australian businesses and industry are the commercial and employment engine rooms of the economy,” continued Minister Robert.

“The University Research Commercialisation Action Plan brings these elements together to create the closer collaborative relationships that we need to focus the considerable research power of our universities on to address Australia’s national economic and industry priorities.

“It also invests in the financial support necessary to take new ideas and foster their development as they step and test their way towards commercialisation, and the new products and innovative technologies that provide the basis for new businesses and jobs.”

“The Morrison Government’s University Research Commercialisation Action Plan will create stronger links between business and industry and focus effort in the six National Manufacturing Priority areas to drive commercial returns,” said Minister Robert.

“To truly realise the potential of collaboration, we need to strengthen ties between academia and industry, and embed those ties into the research career pathway.”

The minister said the latest available data shows that only 40 per cent of Australia’s researchers work in private industry. This is well below the OECD average.

“Under our plan, we will triple the number of industry PhDs by adding 1,800 industry PhDs and over 800 industry Fellows over ten years,” said Minister Robert.

“These new opportunities will create a clear and structured research career pathway that will support ongoing interactions between universities and industry, while also equipping early career researchers to transform their ideas into commercial success.”

The chair of the federal government's Research Commercialisation Taskforce and Chairman and CEO of Siemens Australia, Jeff Connolly, welcomed the Government’s action plan.

He said it was clear to the taskforce that the best outcomes for Australia’s economy and people will come from new approaches from government, within universities and from business and industry.

“This Action Plan provides a strong basis for building on the excellent foundation that exists in our university sector and will ensure that systemic opportunities are there for every researcher who wants to pursue a commercial opportunity, and every business who wants to work with our universities,” said Mr Connolly said.

Chair of Industry Innovation and Science Australia and member of the Research Commercialisation Taskforce, Andrew Stevens, said, “This is a significant and bold investment by the Australian Government that transforms the environment in which universities and industry engage and it has the potential to both create new opportunities to grow our economy and create jobs and make businesses more competitive.”

CSIRO chief executive Dr Larry Marshall added. “We know that connecting great research across all Australia’s universities, with real-world problems in industry, is the key to translating science into real-world solutions.”

“Accelerating and focusing research on the problems that really matter to Australians will help us recover faster from the economic and social impacts of COVID, and make us more resilient to future disruptions.”