Canberra to Universities: Be Our Commercialization Pillars

Australian universities will compete for funding under the first installment of the federal government’s research commercialization plan.

Universities have been asked to ask for A $ 50million (£ 27million) each to establish one of four “research and industry centers” championing breakthroughs in “critical national manufacturing priorities” in areas such as defense, space, clean energy, resources, food, drink and medical products.

The Trailblazer Universities initiative is the first program to emerge from a policy aimed at increasing commercial returns from university research – Education Minister Alan Tudge’s priority for the sector.

“Our universities are exceeding their weight in pure basic research, but are slow to transform research into revolutionary ideas, products and new enterprises,” said Mr. Tudge. “We want our universities to play a bigger role in our economy, working hand in hand with Australian businesses to develop the next generation of great Australian products and businesses.

“I’m calling for expressions of interest from universities who want to take research and convert it into business opportunities. “

Siemens Australia chief executive Jeff Connolly, who chairs the government’s task force on commercialization of research, said his recommendations were informed by a rigorous consultation process.

“This is the first in a series of complementary measures that will help create an environment that directs university research activities towards the goal of commercialization and national economic benefits,” said Mr. Connolly.

The Universities Australia representative group welcomed the money but expressed a wish for more background information. “Universities have worked closely with government to develop a plan for commercializing research, and we understand this announcement is part of it,” said CEO Catriona Jackson. “We look forward to seeing more details on this initiative, as well as the government’s comprehensive research commercialization plan.

Details appear likely to be released on an ad hoc basis as the government is now on the verge of elections. “This is the first initiative of the Morrison government’s research commercialization program, with further announcements made in the coming weeks,” said a joint statement by Prime Minister Scott Morrison and several of his ministers.

“We are putting our best minds to work,” said Mr. Morrison. “We are focusing our researchers and business leaders on Australia’s national priorities to help secure our economic recovery.”

The government will review expressions of interest in the new funding between November and January, before assessing the more detailed business cases of shortlisted candidates between January and March. At least one regional university will be among the four institutions selected as “pioneers of innovation,” according to regionalization minister Bridget McKenzie.

Applicants will be assessed on their ‘market readiness’, ‘industry alignment’ and ‘research capacity to support a national manufacturing priority’ – attributes that most Australian universities already claim.

The funding, allocated over four years, can be used to fund staff recruitment, marketing training, research infrastructure, and new courses and industry partnerships.

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