Rebalancing research funding, say Australian universities

More money for academic R&D and basic research will pay off, says Productivity Commission

Private R&D is failing to match Australia’s cash investment, Universities Australia told the Productivity Commission, a government research and consultancy body.

In a submission to the National Productivity Committee inquiry, the Vice-Chancellors’ group said the planned A$2.7 billion in R&D tax relief in 2019-20 gave the government “almost no a say in how R&D should be concentrated in the national economy”. or commercial interest. It is also unclear how the government measures the value or return on this investment. »

He said the recent focus on commercialization of research and industry-targeted research represented a “shrinkage” of research funding. ‘Universities Australia supports a balanced approach to research funding that also supports the critical role of discovery research,’ he said.

The group called for more spending on university research, saying if spending were increased by just 1% there could be a return of A$24 billion over 10 years. Chief Executive Catriona Jackson said “there is work to be done to increase Australia’s R&D investment”.

“A shift in public support for research and business innovation – towards direct support and away from tax breaks – can better incentivize companies to do research and foster industry-academia partnerships.

Stimulate growth

The submission included modeling from Deloitte Access Economics showing that in 2018 universities contributed A$41 billion to the Australian economy. Deloitte’s report states that every dollar spent on university research brings in 5 Australian dollars, and that “the greatest importance of universities lies in the role that [they] play in the growth of productivity and living standards – thanks to the research they produce and the graduates they supply to the labor market.

Universities Australia predicts that up to 600,000 university-level jobs will be created over the next five years, leading to a potential skills shortage.

The Australian government’s investment rate in R&D is below the OECD average of 2.48% of the economy, at just 1.79%, according to the communication.

He also called for more university places, more support for retraining via microloans and several improvements in healthcare training.

Employment reform

Other submissions to the survey included a call from the National Union of Higher Education for higher education employment reform, and an article from the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering calling for investment. increased in the application of research and training in science and mathematics.

Initial submissions to the survey have been completed, with an interim report and further submissions expected later this year.