Research is SA’s best chance to grow economy  

The South Australian Productivity Commission has not endorsed a merger of Uni Adelaide and Uni SA – but it might have, if it had been asked  

Submissions closed Friday for the PC’s inquiry into, “turning research into economic competitiveness.” The commission draft report states that the proposed merger of the two universities was not in its terms of reference, but,

“we would note that a merger, if designed and implemented competently, could create a catalyst for broader cultural change in the merged institution making some of our suggested reforms more likely to succeed. The merger could also potentially create cost savings for example through removing duplications of assets enabling more efficient use of facilities. If any such savings were used to fund applied, industry focused, research in the spirit of our reforms then the potential for the universities to drive improvement in the state’s economy would be further enhanced.”

As it stands, the commission’s draft report states SA underperforms on productivity and that universities are important to changing it – but it will take work.

“Universities have some significant areas of research strength, but links to industrial outcomes are weaker limiting the economic value created from this research strength.”

However they are the best resource the state has and because private sector R&D is small and insular university research, as the supply side of innovation, should be the driver.

And so, in part, the PC proposes,

* reforming IP ownership: “the equity shares currently taken by South Australian universities risk diluting the incentive for on-going participation by inventors”

* ensure academics can get recognition for engagement: workload models should allow for sufficient resourcing

* new model for translating research: “best done by funding research undertaken with industry targeted at addressing key business problems”

The Commission also has an idea which might appeal to Premier Malinauskas, who appears to have an elevated awareness that SA’s public universities are creatures of state legislation; “make impact and engagement one of the central statutory objectives.”