Lobbies back government’s research sell

Stuart Robert made the case on ABC TV, yesterday

“This is all about commercialisation and how we take our universities and their world class, blue-sky research and commercialise it. It will take the great work our researchers do, and then build our economy through it. So it is a substantial step forward in taking our universities into that commercial space,” the acting education minister said.

When asked if this is ironic given the research sector “has felt completely neglected” the acting education minister replied, “there is over $2.8 billion that goes into research every year. A lot of it blue-sky research. This is now about saying let’s anchor that now in our six modern manufacturing priorities. And let’s get that research commercialised and turned into jobs. And of course, economic activity.”

The interview moved on – as will many that follow. Whatever the issues around his vetoing Australian Research Council approved research and the government’s focus on research translation, from now until the election Mr Robert will keep talking about the spend and the sell, which may be enough to make research an election plus for the coalition.

It would be expensive for Labor to now outbid the government on funding and arguing the government is ignoring HASS, and blue-sky research in general, would  take up time perhaps better spent on issues more easily explained to voters.

 University and research groups were quick to back the government’s plan

The Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering called the Economic Accelerator announcement, “a welcome boost to the research sector” (which) “will play an important role in transforming early-stage research into commercial success and spurring a technology powered, human driven future for Australians.” While referring politely to the importance of “curiosity-driven research which creates the ideas for new commercial opportunities,” the academy applauded, “the government’s recognition that we need a new breed of research entrepreneur.”

The Australian Technology Network called the government’s whole applied research package, “one of the more significant long-term and scalable investments in Australia’s research, innovation and ideas in recent years.

Cooperative Research Australia was, “delighted to see a substantial investment in Australia’s research capability and investment in industry-research collaboration.”

Group of Eight “has long advocated for funding for early-stage research commercialisation, a translational research fund and closer cooperation between universities and industry. Commercialisation endeavours are only as good as the research we undertake and the more that is informed by industry, the more it will be commercially relevant and boost Australia’s global competitiveness.”

Regional Universities Network was, as ever focused. “Regional universities have a strong history of partnering with industry to find real solutions to real problems and increase not only the regional prosperity of Australia but also the quality of regional life.”

Science and Technology Australia saw, “vast potential” for the research commercialisation fund to “’level-up’ Australia’s research commercialisation success and generate stronger returns.”

Universities Australia did what it could to protect all the disciplines researched at member institutions. Chair John Dewar (La Trobe U) described “additional investment to assist the commercialisation of great ideas” as “very welcome” but added, “new ideas come in every discipline … securing predictable, adequate support for Australia’s basic research capability, as well as commercialisation, will be vital into the future.”

Guess which bit of that the government will quote.