Cooperative Research Australia has called for a $50 million boost to the cooperative research centres program, backing recommendations made in the positive 2021 ACIL Allen review released earlier this month.
The peak body for industry-research collaboration said the federal government should increase funding for the CRC program to 2008 levels. In financial year 2008-9, the CRC program received almost $250 million (in real 2019-20 dollars).
“Peer countries and competitors alike are tackling the global economic crisis by increasing their percentage of GDP spend on R&D. They are clear: the way forward is through innovation,” CRA said in its pre-budget submission.
Although undertaken in 2021, the ACIL Allen Cooperative Research Centres Program Impact Evaluation was only released earlier this month. It found that the program had delivered “excellent” outcomes, including $32.5 billion of economic impact from $4.8 billion in government investment.
“It is estimated that for every $1 spent by the Australian Government on the CRCs between 1992 and 2025, GDP is cumulatively $2.61 higher than it would have been had that $1 instead been allocated to general government expenditure,” the ACIL Allen report said.
In its pre-budget submission, the CRA said it “endorses the report’s recommendations with particular focus on further investment in the program and support for CRCs at early stages and in their windup processes”.
The CRC program’s funding peak was around $300 million in 2003-4, but now sits at around $199 million in the October 2022-23 federal Budget. This money is for both the CRC and for the CRC-P grants programs.
The organisation has recommended that CRC program funding be increased by $50 million per annum over the forward estimates in every pre-Budget submission since at least the 2020-21 Budget.
CRA also used the submission to call for additional “ad hoc-special purpose rounds of the CRC program” to deliver in areas critical to economic growth and sovereign capability, and that the CRC program be replicated across other federal government portfolios.
It also recommended the introduction “of up to a 20 per cent collaboration premium”, which would be a tax offset available through the R&D tax incentive scheme. This recommendation was previously made in the 2016 Review of the R&D Tax Incentive.
The CRA similarly recommends increasing overall R&D expenditure as a proportion of GDP from 1.80 per cent to 3.00 per cent. This is above the OECD 2020 average of 2.67 per cent of GDP.
Expenditure on R&D within government organisations has fallen over the last decade as a proportion of GDP, while expenditure in the private sector and higher education sector has flatlined. Increasing expenditure on R&D was flagged as priority by Industry and Science minister Ed Husic in August 2022.
CRA chief executive Jane O’Dwyer said the group’s submission focuses on the benefits of R&D to the Australian economy, particularly through industry-research collaborations in research translation and commercialisation.
“Australia is in a privileged position to take on the opportunity to place innovation at the forefront of policy to address national challenges”, Ms O’Dwyer said.
“It makes economic sense to invest in programs like the CRCs, which according the recently released ACIL Allen Impact Assessment of the program, induced around $200 million per year of new private R&D, and grew GDP by $32.5 billion over the life of the program up until 2021.”
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