Speaking at the launch of the National Innovation and Science Agenda at CSIRO, Canberra, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and the Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science, Christopher Pyne, stated that despite possessing world class research organisations, Australia ‘consistently ranks last or second last among OECD countries for business research collaboration’. It is the belief of the Turnbull Government that companies who embrace innovation and are more open to change are more competitive, more able to grow market share and more likely to increase their employment. The Turnbull Government therefore sees the Innovation and Science Agenda as a key driver of Australia’s long-term economic growth.
The agenda focuses on four key pillars in order to incentivise and reward innovation and risk taking. They are:
- Culture and capital: The agenda will back entrepreneurs by opening up new sources of finance and providing tax breaks to remove the bias against businesses that take risks and innovate.
- Collaboration: The agenda will encourage collaboration between research and industry sectors by changing funding incentives so that university funding is allocated to research that is done in partnership with the industry; and ensuring researchers have access to the infrastructure they need.
- Talent and skills: In order to encourage Australian students to pursue science, the agenda will promote coding and computing in Australian schools in order for all Australians to embrace the digital age.
- The Government as an exemplar: The Australian Government will lead by example by becoming more innovate in how they deliver services and make information publicly available.
The full report on the agenda can be read here.
The Industry Response
The industry response to the Innovation and Science Agenda has been almost overwhelmingly positive. The following is a summary of the various industry associations and their views on the announcement.
Association of Australian Medical Research Institutes
AAMRI President Professor Doug Hilton describes the new agenda as a ‘shot in the arm’ for Australian medical research.
Professor Hilton welcomed the $2.3 billion boost to national research infrastructure funding over the next 10 years, as well as the new $250 million Biomedical Translation Fund.
“The Pharmaceutical and medical sector is Australia’s best performing smart industry, and we are pleased to see the Government doing all it can to ensure growth in this sector with the launch of this new agenda”, Professor Hilton said.
“As Prime Minister Turnbull stated, Australia’s future prosperity depends on research and innovation to compete on the international stage and to capitalise on the opportunities of the future”.
Australian Academy of Science
The Australian Academy of Science welcomed the announcement, calling it ‘a turning point for science in Australia’.
Professor Les Field, the Secretary for Science Policy, said that “this new agenda means we can grow an economy based on our outstanding science and scientific capital. We (The Australian Academy of Science) are excited at the prospect that this will be the beginning of long-term engagement between Government, researchers and industry.”
Australian Industry Group
AI Chief Executive Innes Willox believes that the announcement sets out “decisive and positive steps towards creating the economy and jobs of the future”.
Similar to the Academy of Science, AIG is excited at the prospect of increased Government involvement in scientific fields, calling it a ‘very welcome shift in mindset’.
“The business community is particularly encouraged by the leading roles of the Prime Minister and the Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science in preparing and delivering the agenda. The establishment of a Cabinet Sub-Committee will give this area ongoing vitality and effectiveness and help ensure its effective delivery”.
In particular, AIG is heartened to see improvements in the following areas:
- Encouraging greater investment in early-state capital
- Giving extra emphasis to STEM skills and coding
- Restructuring incentives and institutional arrangements to vitalise collaboration
- Liberating the restraints imposed by our insolvency and bankruptcy laws
Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute
An active participant in consultation for the National Innovation and Research Agenda, AMSI welcomed the announcement and labelled it a critical boost to Australian Research and Innovation. AMSI Director, Professor Geoff Prince, had much to say on the subject.
“Today’s announcement confirms the Australian Government’s commitment to research and innovation as stepping stones to Australia’s future prosperity in a STEM driven global economy. It marks a critical shift towards a risk embracing research culture that recognises the powerful economic contribution of scientific discovery and innovation”.
AMSI was particularly pleased with the increased emphasis on STEM and start-up industries, as well as the $13 million commitment to increase the participation of women in research.
Business Council of Australia
President Catherine Livingstone stated that the NISA “highlights the critical importance of innovation in growing the economy, creating jobs and increasing the competitiveness of large and small businesses”.
“Today’s National Innovation and Science Agenda conveys a positive and realistic ambition for what Australia can be. This is an opportunity to imagine our own future and work to realise our enormous potential as a nation.
She also believes that the initiatives outlined in the agenda need to be complemented by improvements to economy-wide policy settings.
Community and Public Sector Union
The CPSU has welcomed the introduction of the agenda, but has provided a less-glowing response than the other industry associations, stating that it is a step in the right direction towards repairing the damage caused by previous Government budget cuts to science and innovation.
“Unfortunately much of the damage caused by thoughtless budget cuts can only be partially repaired through these measures”, says National Secretary Nadine Flood.
“We’re encouraged by Prime Minister Turnbull’s rhetoric that he wants the Government to lead by example, but he’s ignored the reality that the private sector has invested sensibly in digital transformation while the Government has been slashing public sector jobs and capability in a way that makes it significantly harder to turn his vision into reality”.
Department of Industry, Innovation and Science
Having taken a key role in the development of the NISA, it is unsurprising that the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science has responded positively to the announcement. The Australian Government’s Chief Scientist Ian Chubb believes that the agenda is a ‘very, very substantial step forward’ toward lifting Australia’s performance in a key area that will underpin the future of our country.
“I am pleased to see funding identified to support and encourage the translation of ideas into goods and services that can be taken to the global marketplace. It is an important part of our future, and while there are examples now of good practice in this area, the new initiatives, together with changes to regulations and taxation, will encourage the building of scale”.
National Farmers Federation
The National Farmers Federation welcomed the announcement, whilst also urging the Government to consider agribusiness in future changes. CEO Simon Talbot stated that the agenda marked the start of an important cultural shift for the Australian economy, which will impact the farming sector.
“The farm sector relies on continual innovation to maintain Australia’s strong international competitiveness. The innovation developed within Australia is also considered to be world-leading and is adopted by agribusiness across the globe further reinforcing the need for continued and strong investment in this area”.
The NFF has also urged the Government to recognise the potential for start-ups within the agriculture sector. “The agriculture industry is teeming with entrepreneurs with ideas but we need to ensure that the best and most innovative new business ventures in the agricultural sector have access to the incentives announced today”, Mr Talbot said.
Plastics and Chemical Industries Association
PACIA has said that the agenda announcement is a significant landmark for Australia, and will drive competitiveness and capability across all facets of the economy.
CEO Samantha Read commended the Government on its leadership and commitment to innovation, saying that “we have the ability and know-how to meet this significant demand, but we need a coordinated framework to better leverage our resources. The Agenda is well positioned to provide that framework”.
Ms Read was also quoted as saying “I am particularly pleased that the Agenda will support improved collaboration between universities, research centres and industry. Linking industry and research is crucial to our economy and our ability to compete in global markets”.
Universities Australia believes that the new agenda will begin the cultural change needed to transform the Australian economy and secure prosperity into the future, said CEO Belinda Robinson. Mrs. Robinson stated that the new agenda “is essential to make the transition to a new era in which skills, knowledge and ideas will be our most precious commodities”.
In particular, Universities Australia is pleased that the plan recognises the critical role of Australia’s significant research infastructure.
“These are the facilities that underpin Australia’s research capability. Without strong funding to keep them current and world-leading, our place in the world becomes more vulnerable”.