Clare hits the applied research accelerator

Education Minister Jason Clare introduced the bill for a major new programme into parliament yesterday

It’s Australia’s Economic Accelerator which, the explanatory memorandum advises, will “create a clear and structured career pathway in innovation and commercialisation focused research and drive reform of the existing funding and reward structures in Australian universities.”

“What, like the previous government’s Economic Accelerator?, you ask.  That’s the one (CMM February 3).  In opposition Labor signalled broad support for the Accelerator and it delivered in the budget, with $420m across the forward estimates.

The programme will support researchers from bench stage, including PhD students. Those that make it through assessments will be funded through to market-ready, in large part via CSIRO’s Main Sequence Ventures

Researchers will be supported by “priority managers,” commercial-focused experts in the seven broad industries that are priorities for the government’s National Reconstruction Fund, (resources, agriculture, transport, medical science, renewables/low emission, defence capabilities, developing robotics, AI, quantum tech).

The priority managers will report to an advisory board which will advise the minister on the programme and develop a five-year research commercialisation strategy. The eight-member board will “represent government, industry and research sectors.”

Prior to the election there was talk that CSIRO would have a hand in managing the priority managers and supporting the AEA board – although there was disquiet about the influence that would allow the agency (CMM April 1). Now observers suggest some of this work will go to research consultancies. Whatever the government’s intent, an announcement is expected in the next week or so.

The government talks up the importance of discovery research, in August Mr Clare asked the Australia Research Council for mechanisms to identify, “the highest quality university research in Australia, particularly basic research, beyond the current functions of grants reporting” (CMM August 31. However, with the AEA it is picking up the applied research pace. “It will fill a gap in the current research commercialisation landscape by funding translational research from early-stage research into a product that shows viability for industry partnership and investment,” Mr Clare said in the House yesterday.