IRU Response: ISA 2030 Strategic Plan – Issues Paper, 2017

The proposed ISA 2030 Strategic Vision is:
We want an Australia counted within the top tier of innovation nations, known and respected for its excellence in science, research and commercialization.
Innovation, which can underpin a diversity of internationally competitive industries, will enable todays and future generations to have meaningful work, and a great quality of life, in a fair and inclusive society.
The IRU, as a long-time advocate and contributor to innovation through the graduates and research we produce, supports the progressive vision of the ISA Strategic Plan. Innovation delivers opportunity for economic growth and prosperity; it creates jobs, new products and services, and contributes to social wellbeing. It will be crucial to how Australia creates a viable economic and social system for the coming two decades.

IRU support for a stronger innovation system

The IRU is committed to a stronger and more coherent innovation system. Over recent years, we have argued strongly for the need to strengthen industry driven research with a sustained focus on improved incentives for business and other potential end users to take greater advantage of the depth of research capacity in Australia through the universities and other research bodies .
The corollary to this is a well-funded and enabled research system that supports the breadth of research activity. A flourishing innovation system has long-term incentives, deep and sustained investment in infrastructure; and is well positioned across Australia, not limited to inner city research concentrations.
Within this, each university should have the incentives to be active in shaping and developing their innovative culture, with support for bespoke hubs to support effective interaction with the innovation system drawing in those seeking to be part of it.

IRU support for the Strategic Plan: Overview

NISA is an ambitious, broad and iterative agenda. It requires a “roadmap” to shape its effectiveness and long-term context. The development of an ISA led, 2030 Strategic Plan is a concerted commitment to see NISA realised. The IRU recognises and endorses this commitment to nurturing an innovative culture and eco-system.
The ISA Issues Paper indicates an intention to strengthen, advance and deepen the connection between business and research, an imperative for any innovation driven economy. A greater emphasis on proximity and collaboration is also recognised and if achieved will generate new and innovative developments and synergies and crucially, enable the translation of research, and its commercialization.
Universities should be viewed as linchpins in the strategic planning and implementation. As respected, established and adaptable institutions with deep connections and involvement with their local, regional and international communities they will provide expertise, knowledge, networks, research capability and infrastructure.
Linchpins need to be recognised, supported and well resourced.
In the short term, Governments will often face fiscal pressure to contain expenditure, as is currently the case with the Higher Education Package. Faced with revenue reduction there will be pressure on innovations to strengthen graduates’ readiness for the changed world of work of the 2020s. Stunting a vital and integral part of the innovation system during a development and formative stage, impedes and risks the ISA vision for an innovative nation. Cuts and uncertain funding affect capacity to engage at the edge and frontiers of innovation. The current measures would see universities forced to look inwards and shift into maintenance mode, protecting teaching and research output, narrowing and sapping their capacity for an innovation focus.
Universities are enclaves of innovation and innovative practice that need continued pressure to open up. IRU members have made innovation an explicit and dominant commitment. Elevating the role of universities in the innovation system will only increase their output and capability.
IRU acknowledges that there is an important coordination and interface role for the ISA to work with all stakeholders, including government. The six challenges identified in the Issues Paper need to be viewed as interactive and co-dependent, not separate or ranked. They should be viewed as bellwethers in the structuring and progression of the innovative system.

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