Greens back support for collaborations and commercialisation


The Greens would direct significant additional investment towards supporting commercialisation and collaborations between Australian researchers and global organisations.

The policy announced late last week includes a range of measures to promote higher spending on R&D. At the heart of the policy is a strategic objective to increase spending on Australian R&D from the current 2.2 per cent of GDP to 4 per cent.

In addition to reversing cuts made by the Coalition and mandating that three per cent of investment by the Australian Government's Future Fund be directed towards innovation, the Greens have committed $679 million over four years to increasing the number of children studying science, technology, engineering and maths subjects.

'We want to boost the numbers of children, particularly girls, being inspired to take up careers in STEM fields, which will encourage innovation in Australia in the long term,' said innovation spokesman Nick McKim.

An investment directive to the Future Fund would bring its investment in local innovation up to $15 billion.

"Australia’s Future Fund currently has around a 9% investment in innovation and venture capital, but next to none of this is invested in Australia," say the Greens. "If just 3% of Future Fund private equity investment was dedicated to Australian innovation and impact investing it would create a fund of just over $15bn over four years."

The Greens would also fund the appointment of an Innovation Commissioner, who would work with industry, universities, business, government agencies and Innovation and Science Australia.

"The Innovation Commissioner would also be responsible for developing a comprehensive Innovation Strategy, including a National Social Innovation Strategy. Without significant government policy and strategy the impact and value of Australia’s social enterprise sector will not realise its potential," say the Greens.

In terms of supporting commercialisation, the Greens will build on existing programmes with an additional $43.4m over four years to fund opportunities for international collaboration.

The funding will go towards supporting early to mid-career researchers to establish partnerships with international leaders in their field, as well as collaborative innovation projects to "deliver industry and economic benefit for Australia through research links with overseas companies and facilities."

The Greens also back supporting commercialisation as an "important element" of the $20 billion Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF).

The MRFF was announced in the 2014-15 Budget, funded through savings measures in the health portfolio. It is expected to provide additional annual support for health and medical research of around $1 billion from 2020.

The first investment from the MRFF was announced late last year - $250 million for the Biomedical Translation Fund to develop and commercialise promising outcomes from Australian research.

The Greens also restated their commitment to scrap the Coalition's proposed 1.5 per cent cut in the R&D Tax Incentive, at a cost of $690 million over the forward estimates.

The cut, which has failed to secure parliamentary approval since being announced in last year's Budget, is also being considered as part of the ongoing review of the R&D Tax Incentive being led by Mr Bill Ferris AC, Chair, Innovation and Science Australia, Dr Alan Finkel AO FTSE, Chief Scientist of Australia, and Mr John Fraser, Secretary to the Treasury.

In their policy, the Greens acknowledge the government’s move to increase collaboration in the medical research sector through Advanced Health Research and Translation Centres (AHRTC). However, it commits an additional $171 million to the NHMRC to support the AHRTC initiative.

It says the fund will support 4 AHRTCs each with $12 million a year for four years.

"The centres should be new, innovative and flexible bodies that bring together many players in different ways. We anticipate that they will attract the best groups from universities," says the policy.

"The last decade has seen a major shift towards collaborative research, especially in health. Innovation is more likely to occur in a research cluster, where a network of complementary participants drives a faster flow of ideas.

"Research clusters support multidisciplinary team building, attract high-calibre researchers, and facilitate rapid multilateral exchange of information. A similar integration of healthcare and research leads to better health outcomes," it adds.