Total Australian government support for research and development increased by 9 per cent during 2008-2016, according to the latest OECD Science, Technology and Industry Scoreboard, making Australia among the most generous among its peers for R&D support.
The Scoreboard revealed the Australian government provided R&D support roughly evenly between direct funding and tax incentives.
And in 2015, Australia recorded the second highest level of tax support for business R&D in the OECD, behind the Netherlands.
The OECD also pointed out SMEs and young firms benefited more than large enterprises from the R&D incentives offered by government.
At the same time, Australia accounted for just over 3 per cent of the world’s top 10 per cent of most-cited scientific publications in 2016.
While Australia was ninth behind peers like Canada, Japan and France, it was an improvement on records from 2005 where Australia contributed only to 2.3 per cent of the world’s top 10 per cent of most-cited scientific publications.
A possible reason for the growth could have been driven by the spike in the number of scientists in which Australia has attracted since 2001, as recorded by the OECD.
Perhaps this is a timely message to CSIRO’s data innovation unit Data61, which is currently putting together an agenda for a masterclass series on how industry and scientists can collaborate more closely.
Ahead of an official pilot for the education series due launch next March, a taster crash course ran earlier this month that uncovered how industry are interested to work with scientists to address current concerns around blockchain, privacy preserving, data analytics, open data and regulation technology.
The opportunities around the use of quantum computing, implantable nanotechnology for cancer research, and computer vision processing in the automotive sector for autonomous vehicles were also addressed, according to Data61 new ventures leader Shelley Copsey.
Ms Copsey said that as the “fourth industrial” revolution has taken hold, Australian businesses were moving too slowly to take advantage of potential opportunities. But she says scientists can help bridge that gap.
“We’ve seen great leaps forward being made by corporate Australia, and how they’re beginning to look at venturing, and how their internal innovation and corporate strategy teams are positioning their businesses to attempt to capture the opportunity,” Ms Copsey said.
“But there’s still not enough engagement with the science community to really see how to science could underpin some of the new businesses that are emerging.”
Ms Copsey crash courses will also look at “when we do collaboration is how we shorten the innovation cycle in business, and how we help accelerate their growth and transformation.”
Without a doubt, if Australia was to see more industry and research collaboration – unsurprisingly, an issue that has been an ongoing discussion for the last few decades – Data61 is in the ideal position to lead it, and not just the discussion part but the actual execution and delivery.