Applied research and how to fund it

Karen Andrews has kicked $60m more into the industry growth centres, to keep them ticking over for two more years. The Industry, Science and Technology minister announced the money at a Parliament House event yesterday, where the centres strutted their stuff.

The case for translational research: Also yesterday the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering reminded government and Opposition that commitments to science research are incomplete unless technology and engineering can translate them into the economy. “It is the application of science through technology and engineering, winning social support for those steps and ensuring that industry adopts technology and has viable business models that will drive our prosperity,” Academy chair Hugh Bradlow says.

A job for the growth centres: Sounds a bit like what the six industry growth centres, including cyber security and medical tech and pharmaceuticals, could do. Ms Andrew says they are about “getting industry and researchers working together, and managers and workers properly skilled, to support Australia’s transition to smart, high value, export-focused industries.”

So how’s it going?: Apparently well enough for the feds to fund another two years and Ms Andrews pointed to all sorts of activity, $63m in partner investment, helping over 150 Australian businesses secure contracts and grow export sales.

Good-o, but there is a bunch of consultations and plans on the programme’s webpage.

And there’s another idea: Learned readers ask whether the programme’s funding could be usefully allocated to a translational science research fund, which scientific lobbies propose.

Labor research spokesman Kim Carr suggests that Ms Andrews has re-announced a budget allocation, when detail on the programme performance is what is needed. “Industry wants to better understand what have been the impacts of the growth centres and what they have delivered. The government should release the review of the growth centres that informed this decision to  extend their funding for a further two years.”

Review, what review?: The one officials mentioned in Senate Estimates in October, when they said the $60m was “subject to a review” of the centres’ performance.


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