The Federal Government has handed out nearly $29 million to a range of business-research collaborations as part of its Cooperative Research Centres Projects (CRC-P) program in the Commonwealth’s ongoing effort to address commercialisation issues.
The matched funding program has previously dished out $57.1 million across two rounds.
The Cooperative Research Centres Projects aims to foster collaboration between public institutions and private enterprises. The grants are provided to apply research to solving industry-specific problems or developing new products and technologies.
The third round of funding saw $28.8 million invested across 13 separate projects, selected from a total of 35 eligible applications to the program.
The biggest grant recipient is a project involving Austrak and the University of Southern Queensland, which was given $3 million – the maximum available as part of the program – to develop polymer composite transforms for rail bridge deck replacement.
Other winners include Eco Fuel Innovations and the University of Queensland, which will receive $1.85 million to develop technology that produces sustainable diesel from waste, and Printed Energy and Cyclotek and Macquarie University, which have teamed up to develop new technology to test for prostate cancer.
Industry minister Arthur Sinodinos said the scheme targeted short-term, industry-led collaborations aimed at solving specific problems.
“By facilitating business involvement in collaborative research, the CRC projects strongly align with the Australian government’s commitment to improve the competitiveness, productivity and sustainability of Australian industries,” Senator Sinodinos said in a statement.
The program aims to improve the competitiveness, productivity and sustainability of Australian industries, and encouraging and enabling SME participation in collaborative research to solve industry specific problems.
It addresses one of the most enduring problems the local innovation ecosystem – its inability to capitalise on the country’s strong research and talent through successful commercialisation of discoveries
This problem was demonstrated by Australia’s recent slide down the global innovation index, ranking 30th in the world in terms of outputs and commercialisation, 52nd in terms of innovation linkages and 48th for knowledge absorption.
These stats have been backed up by the government’s own research, Senator Sinodinos said.
“The [Innovation and Science Australia] board’s review of our innovation, science and research system showed that as a nation we are good at coming up with clever ideas, but could be better at transforming them into tangible outcomes,” he said.
“The government is committed to addressing those gaps in our innovation ecosystem.”
The grants program puts emphasis on advanced manufacturing, with the government recently committing a further $20 million for the sector.
It’s an area that both sides of politics have recently reaffirmed a commitment, with both outlining its significant role in the broader innovation ecosystem.
“We see manufacturing as an indispensable part of the innovation ecosystem that we are trying to build in this country. The future is very much in innovative and smart manufacturing. Which means that we have both an innovation mindset and a global outlook, to help to give us scale,” Senator Sinodinos said.
Many of the 13 collaborative projects selected in the latest round of the CRC program are focused on advanced manufacturing, including one aimed at making the industry portable, which scored $1.5 million.
He said there is huge opportunity for Australia if the commercialisation gap is improved in terms of advanced manufacturing.
“One of the things about this country is we really punch above our weight when it comes to knowledge creation. One of the challenges we face is how we translate that into more commercial outcomes,” Senator Sinodinos said.
“That doesn’t mean we have to commercialise every idea in Australia, but my point is we have a great opportunity for greater collaboration and one of the sectors in which collaboration is really important going forward is manufacturing.”