Science & Technology Australia calls for $2.4B research translation fund

Health Industry Hub | February 25, 2021 |
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Medical News: A once-in-a-generation seismic investment in science in the 2021 Budget would be a defining legacy for the Government, securing the science heft needed to face the next challenges after COVID-19.

A new $2.4 billion research translation and commercialisation fund would be a powerful vehicle to turn more of Australia’s world-class university research into products, services and jobs with deeper industry-university collaboration.

Science & Technology Australia’s recommendation is that any savings from changes to the Research & Development Tax Incentive (RDTI) could be used to create a new Research Translation Fund. While most comparable countries rely on a combination of direct support (grants and interest free loans) and indirect measures (tax incentives) to encourage business investment in research, Australia relies heavily on indirect measures (the R&D tax incentive). A research translation fund from any savings from the RDTI would create extra policy levers to encourage investment and bring Australia closer into line with our economic competitors. This would be a vehicle to enable ‘almost there’ research insights to be developed and made here in Australia.

Science & Technology Australia Chief Executive Officer Misha Schubert said a research translation and commercialisation fund would secure Australia’s ability to respond to the crisis after COVID.

“The pandemic has put into stark relief the fact that science investments made over previous decades have come into their own in this moment of national need,” she said.

“With the crucial role of science front and centre in the public mind, it’s time to secure the science capabilities we need to face the crisis after COVID – and the ones after that.”

“A Science Future Fund or Research Translation & Commercialisation Fund would help turbo-charge Australia’s economic recovery and maximise our bang-for-buck return from university research.”

“What’s missing from our research funding system at the moment is a vehicle to get more of our ‘almost there’ stage research turned into products and services that create new jobs and growth.”

“Australia has a highly-skilled STEM workforce and world-class research – our challenge is to maximise even further the returns those assets deliver to the nation and economy.”

STA estimates the proposal would cost $2.4 billion over the Budget forward estimates.

“A new research translation and commercialisation fund would drive deeper collaboration between universities and business, create new local jobs, and boost sovereign capability,” she said.

“As we come out of the pandemic, we have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to enable science and technology to boost our economy, secure Australia’s intellectual property rights, and prepare us for whatever crisis comes next. A research translation fund would do all of this and more.”

Science & Technology Australia proposes the Government use the May 2021 Budget to make long-term reforms that create a powerful legacy. These include:

  1. Secure Australia’s capability to respond to future crises by establishing a new ‘Science Future Fund’ or ‘Research Translation Fund’ to turn more of Australia’s science into rapid applications;
  2. Tackle the urgent need to stop the brain drain of young people out of STEM and boost future STEM talent for Australia with a new strategic initiative to inspire more Australian school students into science, technology, engineering and maths;
  3. Tap into deep Indigenous knowledge in science, technology, engineering and maths by investing $4 million over four years to support an Australian Indigenous Scientists/STEM Network;
  4. Invest in a comprehensive long-term national plan for Australian science and technology;
  5. Continue the commitment to nurture expert STEM advice and connections for policymakers with a long-term endowment to support Science Meets Parliament; and
  6. An initiative to track the loss of researchers and scientists from Australia’s university sector and a program to provide workforce bridging for those affected.

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