CRCs call for more support for industry-led research

Brandon How

Cooperative Research Australia (CRA) has called for more federal investment into industry-led research to bolster the post-COVID economic recovery and underpin the development of new industries.

The CRA today published a pre-budget submission which lists five proposals to increase federal support for industry-led research and the Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) program. Cooperative Research Australia is the peak representative body for industry-research collaboration.

Since it was established by the Commonwealth in 1990, the CRC program has been led collaborations between industry and research. It focuses on creating new products, services and industries.

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Cooperative research to build new industrial capability

Research grants are available to CRCs on a medium to long term basis of up to 10 years or CRC Projects (CRC-P) on a short-term basis of up to three years. There are currently 24 CRCs receiving federal funding, of which there is no specified limit.

The submission calls for an additional $50 million to be invested annually, the equivalent of two new industry-led CRCs or one CRC and eight CRC-Ps a year. The CRA also suggested that three new centres be founded to meet policy objectives across government portfolios that aren’t already being met. Last year, the government committed more than $770 million to the program to 2024-25.

A recommended 20 per cent collaboration premium as part of the research and development (R&D) tax incentive scheme was also touted to boost innovation. The CRA suggests that the premium could enable employing new PhD or equivalent graduates.

Support was also voiced for the government’s announcement last week of a $1.6 billion economic accelerator to support commercialisation of the six national manufacturing priorities.

CRA chief executive Jane O’Dwyer said that continuing encouragement of collaboration between research and business needs to be a national priority.

“Our capacity to translate research into commercial outcomes and flow to greater economic, social, and environmental benefit to the nation is a great opportunity for Australia that should not be overlooked,” Ms O’Dwyer said.

“The CRC Program is an Australian success story and forms one of the key pillars in the Australian innovation system. CRCs and other industry-research collaborative entities are responsible for a sizeable proportion of current and past industry PhDs and industry-focused post-doctoral fellowships.”

Science and Technology Minister Melissa Price has previously described the CRC Program as a “backbone to Australia’s academic and industry commercialisation efforts.”

The CRA pre-budget submission makes the following five proposals:

  • Increase investment in industry-led CRCs and CRC-Ps by $50 million a year over the forward estimates.
  • Introduce the CRC Program model to more government portfolios by establishing up to three new centres to areas of national significance that align with the needs of government portfolios not covered under existing collaborations. This follows a recommendation made by in a 2014 review of the CRC program.
  • Invest $1 million in a CRC Alumni Destination and Outcomes study to provide baseline evidence for the success of Industry PhD schemes by drawing upon the experience of 4,000 industry focused PhD graduates.
  • Incentivise innovation through a collaboration premium of 20 per cent for the research and development tax offset. Consistent with the second recommendation of the 2016 Review of the R&D Tax Incentive.
  • Commit to growing funding for fundamental research to guarantee Australia’s global competitiveness and ensure a pipeline for future applied research, translation and new products, services, and processes.

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

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