IRU supports focus on internships for researchers

Innovative Research Universities (IRU) supports the Coalition’s $31.2 million commitment in internships and post-school career advice for women and girls aiming to pursue a career in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM).

The IRU has consistently called for the need to improve opportunities for researchers to work in industry and for career paths that move between industry and other settings.  Hence the focus on internships for female PhD researchers is commendable.  IRU equally supports the goal of improving gender equity in STEM, in line with the Science in Australia Gender Equity (SAGE) programme.

“Such initiatives have the potential to enhance much-needed links between industry and researchers.  We look forward to industry taking up the challenge to make this successful,” said Professor John Dewar, Chair of the IRU group.

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 For comment contact: IRU Marketing and Media Advisor, Jo Smith M: 03 9479 2134/0403 222 528

Sharper Incentives: proposed changes and rules for Research Block Grants – IRU submission

The essence of the 2015 Watt Review of Research Policy and Funding Arrangements proposals for research block grants is that universities should be responsible for the use of funds against the two prime purposes of supporting the universities’ research output and supporting research students.

The consultation paper ‘Sharper Incentives for engagement: New research block grant arrangements for universities’ poses many options that would diminish the simplification the Watt report proposes, particularly for the new Research Training Program.  Many of the options raised hold back from giving universities the responsibility to use the resources provided in the way they consider best to generate future research outcomes, with further funding dependent on success.

The IRU approach on the new programs’ requirements is to oppose rules that only express conservative good practice and to support those integral to achieving key policy aims for the two programs. The areas where we agree that full university flexibility for the Research Training Program should be moderated by other considerations are:

  • to maintain the focus on research degree completions by limiting the period of support a student can receive;
  • to ensure that student stipends ensure both a minimum reasonable level of support and also avoid the appearance of unnecessarily generous levels of support for some individuals.

On program reporting, the IRU approach is that it should be structured around the collection of relevant research outputs through an agreed regular national data collection with minimal collection of expenditure uses.  The draft guidelines also require amendments.

Read full submission attached (6 pages).

IRU Responds to Labor’s Plan for Budget Repair

The Labor ‘Plan for Budget Repair’ maintains Labor’s pledge to reverse any reductions to the base Commonwealth Grant Scheme crucial to universities’ education and research delivery. This will maintain base funding at the 2012 levels indexed.  This commitment is fundamental to Labor’s argument that Government should be the major funder of universities.

The statement includes several items that affect universities and students.  These are:

  • changes to the annual indexation measure to use the Consumer Price Index (CPI) only rather than a mix of CPI and professional wage growth;
  • reduction to the threshold for repayment of Higher Education Loan Program (HELP) amounts;
  • accepting tightening of the Research and Development (R&D) Tax incentive; and
  • reducing funding to Industry Growth Centres and abolition of the Innovation Xchange.

The change to indexation will toughen the challenge for universities to deliver at the standard required through tightening the funding available.

The change to the HELP repayment threshold is of less concern. The base threshold has been reduced and raised several times without effect on university participation. In the balance of ensuring all potential students follow their aspirations and having reasonable levels of HELP repayment these changes can be supported.

The changes to the R&D Tax Incentive sidestep the key issue about the Incentive. We need to move on from the constant battle between tightening and loosening eligibility to focus the Incentive at research that uses the research capability in universities and other research agencies.  If elected to Government, Labor should look to the yet to be released report from the Chief Scientist and Head of Innovation and Science Australia which addresses how to make the Incentive work to optimum effect.

IRU supports the Industry Growth Centres as potentially valuable means to link smaller businesses to research and management support that will assist them prosper. It is too early as yet to tell how effective they will be.  Reducing the small amount of funds for the Centres will make it harder to determine what impact they could have.

Overall the changes allow Labor to prioritise funding without doing major harm to university education and research.
Download the statement below.

Innovation Incubators: #NISA 4

IRU supports the general thrust of the government’s proposal with its focus on establishing new incubators in regions or industry sectors where none or few exist as well as expanding the services offered by existing incubators.

To determine the existing gaps, it would be useful to have a publicly-available list of existing incubators.   This would be beneficial for current start-ups looking for incubator support.   Though such a list currently does not exist, the assumption is that current incubators are based in Australia’s five main cities with the majority being Sydney or Melbourne based. This is the key issue that the new programme must address.

Read more below.

Striking a better balance – Supporting university research

Dr Ian Watt’s Review of Research Policy and Funding Arrangements proposes a fundamental overhaul of the Research Block Grant programmes so that they support both fundamental research and that supporting industry and other end user needs.

“The Report gives the Government the basis to strike a better balance of incentives for universities to engage with business and other end users of research.  We need to maintain our substantial fundamental research capability, whose world class standard has been shown yet again through ERA 2015, and strengthen the value of research for end users,” said IRU Executive Director, Mr Conor King.

The Watt review comes at an important juncture for the future of Australian research.

“I hope the Government will endorse the thrust of Dr Watt’s recommendations in its coming innovation statement and go on to ensure that business has the right incentives to in parallel take up the challenge to invest in research that supports its needs.”

The Report’s key themes are in line with the IRU’s submission to the Review. Read more below.

IRU – Innovation in Action Series 4 of 4

Placing Australia securely within the network of global research and innovation is essential. Earlier this year, Innovative Research Universities (IRU) published recommendations for the creation of an Asian Research and Innovation Network outlining the potential for Australia in contributing to and benefiting from increasingly developed Asian networks.

Australia produces approximately 3% of world research output yet represents only 0.3% of the world’s population. Hence Australia’s research output is relatively strong but as a small contributor to the global research effort it cannot operate independently of research across the world. In contrast, Asia’s share of global research and development expenditure was forecast to reach almost 40% in 2014.

IRU – Innovation in Action Series 3 of 4

Innovative Research Universities (IRU) recommends an additional assessment to provide an effective measure of the value of research for end users to support the new innovation agenda. The new measure would complement the existing Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) to create a comprehensive Australian research assessment measure.

The incentives for individual researchers are critical to stimulating a change in the balance of researcher focus. A significant factor holding back universities’ capacity to extend research activity to improve support for industry driven research is the emphasis on income from national competitive grants, publication output and citations and the way in which they underpin the ERA and most international ranking systems.

IRU – Innovation in Action Series 2 of 4

Placing Australia securely within the network of global research and innovation is essential. Earlier this year, Innovative Research Universities (IRU) published recommendations for the creation of an Asian Research and Innovation Network outlining the potential for Australia in contributing to and benefiting from increasingly developed Asian networks.

Australia produces approximately 3% of world research output yet represents only 0.3% of the world’s population. Hence Australia’s research output is relatively strong but as a small contributor to the global research effort it cannot operate independently of research across the world. In contrast, Asia’s share of global research and development expenditure was forecast to reach almost 40% in 2014.

IRU – Innovation in Action Series 1 of 4

Innovative Research Universities (IRU) is Australia’s Innovation Network. As a dynamic group of top 100 universities in the world under 50 years old, partnerships and innovation with industry play a core role in our identity, vision and growth.

With universities all around Australia and 71% of our research classed at world standard or above, IRU’s innovative partnerships with industry impact individuals, businesses and communities throughout Australia and the world.

Since their inception, IRU members have engaged in partnership with industry to drive their research agenda. Today almost 25% of the group’s research income stems from industry. In addition, IRU universities together account for a 12% share of industry-led Cooperative Research Centre income annually.