National initiatives for research and innovation

The importance of innovation and research for Australia’s economy and for society more broadly can be demonstrated through the emphasis of government policies, initiatives, and programs:

Australia 2030: Prosperity through Innovation

Australia 2030: Prosperity through Innovation is the Australian Government’s strategic plan to accelerate innovation, science, and research, and to optimise Australia’s innovation system until 2030. Released in February 2018, the Plan builds on the findings of the 2016 Performance Review of the Australian Innovation, Science and Research System. It contains 30 recommendations within five urgent areas for action to create a more innovative Australia by 2030: (1) education, (2) industry, (3) government, (4) research and development, and (5) culture and ambition.

National Innovation and Science Agenda

The 2015 National Innovation and Science Agenda (NISA) is the Australian Government’s flagship innovation policy that sets out Australia’s vision for economic prosperity. NISA outlines $1.1 billion worth of initiatives to drive innovation and knowledge transfer by investing in enablers such as research infrastructure; incentivising business investment in research and development; and removing regulatory obstacles. This agenda identifies science and innovation as critical elements for Australia “to deliver new sources of growth, maintain high‑wage jobs and seize the next wave of economic prosperity”.

Industry Innovation and Competitiveness Agenda

In 2014, the Prime Minister and the Minister for Industry and Science released the Industry Innovation and Competitiveness Agenda. The Agenda recognises that innovation is critical to making Australian businesses globally competitive. It contains immediate reforms, economic incentives and a range of initiatives to boost competitiveness and growth for both small and big businesses.

As a key element of the Agenda, the Australian Government released the Boosting the Commercial Returns from Research discussion paper. This paper acknowledges that better translation of research into commercial outcomes is a key part of building our capacity for innovation, growing successful businesses, and boosting productivity and exports. The discussion paper canvasses a range of actions and reforms to improve Australia’s economic performance through improved translation of research into commercial outcomes for Australia.

Entrepreneurs’ Programme

Established in 2015, the Entrepreneurs’ Programme is the Australian Government’s flagship initiative for business competitiveness and productivity. The program provides practical advice, expert guidance, connections, access to business networks, growth opportunities and financial support to SMEs, entrepreneurs and researchers for their collaboration activities.

Global Innovation Strategy

In 2016, the Australian Government launched the Global Innovation Strategy as an overarching framework to guide Australia’s international industry, science and innovation collaboration. With an initial investment of $36 million over four years in funding initiatives, the strategy supports economic and science diplomacy efforts to increase international industry–research collaboration and build strong connections within the Asia-Pacific region.

CSIRO Innovation Fund

The CSIRO Innovation Fund is a joint government–private sector $200 million fund, launched in 2016 as an initiative of NISA. It invests in startups, spin off companies, and SMEs engaged in the translation of research generated in the publicly funded research sector such as CSIRO and universities.

The fund is intended to help improve the translation of publicly funded research into commercial outcomes, stimulate innovation in Australia, boost productivity, and generate jobs. The government is investing a total of $70 million into the fund over 10 years alongside $30 million of revenue from CSIRO’s WLAN program, which has delivered Wi-Fi to the world. The remaining $100 million will be sourced from wholesale private sector investment.

Smart Cities and Suburbs Program

The $50 million competitive Smart Cities and Suburbs Program was announced as part of the 2016 election campaign. The program encourages eligible organisations – local governments, private companies, research organisations and not for profit bodies – to deliver collaborative smart city projects that improve the liveability, productivity and sustainability of Australian cities, suburbs and towns. The program is being run over 3 years from 2016-17 to 2018-19.

Research and Development Tax Incentive

The Research and Development (R&D) Tax Incentive is a broad-based entitlement program, open to firms of all sizes in all sectors who are conducting eligible R&D activities. It reduces the cost to businesses of undertaking R&D activities, offering tax offsets for up to $100 million of eligible R&D expenditure each financial year.

The Tax Incentive replaced the R&D Tax Concession Program in 2011. In 2014-15, the R&D Tax Incentive supported over 15,000 businesses and accounted for approximately 30 per cent of total Government spending on science, research and innovation.

Cooperative Research Centres

Cooperative Research Centres (CRCs) are collaborations between research organisations. CRCs commonly have dozens of participating organisations: universities and research institutions; businesses from SMEs to multinational corporations; governments at all levels; not-for-profit organisations; and industry and community associations.

The CRC Program is a competitive, merit based grant program that supports industry-led and outcome-focussed collaborative research partnerships. It aims to improve the competitiveness, productivity and sustainability of Australian industries; foster high quality research to solve industry-identified problems; and facilitate SME participation in collaborative research.

Research and Development Corporations

Research and Development Corporations (RDCs) are a partnership between the Australian Government and industry, created to share the funding and strategic direction setting for primary industry R&D investment and adoption. They are the Australian Government’s main vehicle for funding rural innovation, and can commission and manage targeted investment in research, innovation, and knowledge creation and extension.

Industry Growth Centres

Industry Growth Centres are independent not-for-profit companies that engage with international markets, create national and international collaborative opportunities, and are driven by a strategic board of eminent industry leaders. They bring focus and alignment across industry and innovation policy initiatives, including the Entrepreneurs’ Programme, CRCs, CSIRO, and initiatives under NISA. This was a key initiative under the 2014 Industry Innovation and Competitiveness Agenda, and has $250 million in Australian Government funding for 2016-2020.

Industry Growth Centres have been established in sectors of competitive strength and strategic priority to drive innovation, productivity and competitiveness. Each Growth Centre has a Project Fund to support collaborative projects that contribute to the strategic direction outlined in the relevant Sector Competitiveness Plans.

Australian Council of Graduate Research

In October 2018 the Australian Council of Graduate Research (ACGR) and the Australian Industry Group (Ai Group) released two guides to support and enhance valuable partnerships between university research students and industry partners: a guide for industry and a guide for universities.

“Graduate research candidates undertaking a PhD or a Masters by Research represent a rich talent
pool – possessing the knowledge, intellectual abilities, technical capabilities and professional
standards to work on and solve industry-defined problems.”

– Professor Sue Berners-Price, ACGR Convenor

“The Australian Industry Group has seen the joint activity with ACGR as an important endeavour to
increase industry-university collaboration. Greater involvement by graduate research students in industry
can contribute a significant contribution to innovation. These research candidates can apply specialised
cognitive, technical and research skills to provide creative solutions to challenging problems.”

– Innes Willox, Ai Group Chief Executive

The ACOLA Review

In 2015 the Australian Government commissioned the Australian Council of Learned Academies (ACOLA) to undertake a national Review of Australia’s Research Training System. This review engaged higher education and research institutions, peak bodies, industry, and government agencies to gather information regarding opportunities to improve Australia’s research training system and deliver evidence-based findings.

Key recommendations from this review include:

  • to provide additional funding to incentivise industry–university collaboration, with a particular focus on initiatives that connect HDR candidates with industry-led research problems, and
  • to develop a national program to support industry placements for Research Doctorate candidates.

Key findings from this review outline the need for:

  • the creation of a skills development framework to
    (1) strengthen university programs that ensure research graduates are equipped for a range of sectors, including academic teaching, research and industry, and
    (2) provide universities with a transparent mechanism to demonstrate the skills and capabilities of their research graduates to prospective employers;
  • increased industry linkages during research training through, for example, placements with industry partners, undertaking industry-defined research projects, and involving an industry supervisor for the project; and
  • enhanced industry linkages to drive the establishment of long-term relationships between industry and researchers, give industry an insight into the benefits of employing researchers, and help to overcome the cultural differences that stand in the way of increased collaboration.

National Strategy for International Education 2025

In 2016, the Australian Government released Australia’s first National Strategy for International Education 2025 (IE Strategy) emphasising the importance of international education to Australia.

This strategy highlights that genuine ongoing partnerships between Australian business and industry are critical to the success and competitiveness of Australian international education: cooperation can enhance graduate employability outcomes, support productivity and growth, improve research investment and output, and encourage technology and innovation transfer.