Can research save us from the car crash?

Sunset for sunrise industry employment

Among all the autopsies for the car industry yesterday, and by extension all of manufacturing, there were optimists suggesting that it made the case for a highly educated workforce staffing high tech industries. Which made IT research centre NICTA‘s timing terrible in announcing cuts to its Victorian operation after the state government withdrew funding. The agency is abandoning work in health and life sciences, optics and nano-electronics, and control and signal Processing. NICTA says 30 of 70 heads in Melbourne will roll. The staff count does not include university employees based at NICTA.

Silent on CRCs

If there was ever a day for the government to announce new industry-linked jobs yesterday was it but there was nothing said about cooperative research centres. The winners of the new round were due to be announced in December, then January and there is talk that something is imminent. The government certainly needs something showing that it is fostering job-generating research.

R&D dollar destinations

So how much is Canberra spending on research intended to have an economic/social impact? Of around $8.5bn outlayed for research in total this financial year, the ARC and NHMRC allocate around 10 per cent, CSIRO picks up nearly 9 per cent and the Defence Science and Technology Organisation around 5 per cent, the CRCs account for just 1.7 per cent. University block grants account for 21.9 per cent. But when it comes to investment that is hard to assess it is the 19.4 per cent that goes on industry research development tax measures which is a mystery. As one research policy expert says, the vast majority of the dosh goes on development, applying other people’s ideas rather than generating new ones.  As for ARC Linkage grants, a bare third of university collaborations last year were with Australian companies or industry bodies.

From car plants to campus

The National Tertiary Education Union suggests the government should spend the money saved on car industry subsidies on education. “Australian universities and TAFEs are integral to supporting high-skilled jobs and ensuring the competitiveness of the Australian economy into the 21st century. They play a critical role in assisting displaced workers and their families adjust … Tony Abbott cannot have it both ways. If he insists on ripping away industry support, he must invest in Australia’s future strengths by increasing investment in higher education.” I wonder if the Treasurer will see the connection.

“What’s Mandarin for ‘cash flow’ ?”

Among all the gloom yesterday at least one business group is looking forward. The Elicos industry released yesterday the outcome of a planning session setting out four scenarios ranging from the unspeakably awful to the improbably optimistic as guides to shape member planning. Although government focuses on higher education the English language market is vital to higher education exports as well as a big deal in its own right. This is a solid piece of work and other education exporters should unashamedly copy the model.

Value adding (i)

Harvard University is extending its online offerings to courses with add-ons exclusive for its graduates. As a way to give them a continuing connection with the university this is first rate – especially for a university that relies on philanthropy. Brilliant, just brilliant.

Value adding (ii)

The Higher Education Funding Council for England has released its funding priorities for 2014-15, which includes increasing open access for publicly funded research. “Increasing Open Access to research outputs is a key government objective which should be supported by research assessment methodology and by the Q(uality) R(elated) research funding stream in due course.” Interesting to see how they manage this but it is certainly an advance on just stating that publicly funded research should be publicly available – and then allowing the journal publishers to set the terms for it to happen.

No Mad Men here  

Ad News reports  Monash University and its advertising agency have parted company and that that the $4 million account will go to pitch. This puts the advertising spend at a bare 25 per cent of the Monash group’s $15m marketing spend in 2012. For an operation with $1.76bn in revenues this is lean as.

Know something the world needs to know? Anonymity guaranteed but lots of questions asked, stephen4@hotkey.net.au