Govt asks industry group for commercialisation metrics

Joseph Brookes
Senior Reporter

The Education department has turned to the peak university research translation industry group to measure commercialisation outcomes, funding its annual commercialisation survey and encouraging more universities to engage with it.

An improved survey could help fill the gap left after the government stopped its own national survey of research commercialisation data in 2017, but is still well short of the comprehensive measurements and new framework proposed in a 2019 review hidden for years by the former government.

Knowledge Commercialisation Australasia (KCA), a peak body for research commercialisation professionals in publicly funded research organisations, on Tuesday announced the federal Department of Education is funding its annual Survey of Commercialisation Outcomes from Public Research (SCOPR).

The survey, now in its fourth year, culminates in an annual report with aggregated metrics for outcomes like research expenditure, intellectual property, commercialisation revenue and university spin out companies.

The voluntary survey gets around 40 to 50 Australian and New Zealand universities, medical research institutes, rural research corporations and publicly funded research agencies to respond.

Select government agencies are already able to access the unaggregated data to help research commercialisation policy and outcomes.

KCA said its new partnership with the Education department would improve commercialisation metrics through SCOPR. The partnership includes funding from the Department for improving data quality and is aimed at improving policy, programs and researcher engagement, the industry group said.

“We regard this as a significant milestone and an accreditation by a key government department of the value of SCOPR,” KCA Chair Quin Chang said.

“KCA maintains its commitment to continue and hopefully expand the participation by all organisations conducting publicly funded research in Australia and New Zealand.”

SCOPR launched in 2020, shortly after a government review of innovation metrics warned of significant gaps and quality issues with research commercialisation data. But the review was not published at the time and only released publicly last year by the new Albanese government.

The warnings hidden for three years included no international conceptual framework for the measurement of research commercialisation activities and several challenges to the existing measurement in Australia.

The review recommended an end to the government’s National Survey of Research Commercialisation, with a new responsible entity to coordinate the development of a conceptual framework for the measurement of research commercialisation activities.

The review even suggested KCA as a potential supplier of a new research commercialisation activity survey.

But the recommendation and several more in the review never received a formal government response. Industry minister Ed Husic has opened the door to a formal reply but there is no assurance one will come.

KCA launched its SCOPR survey with an endorsement from the author of the then-unpublished review, Dr Alan Finkel, in 2020, just after the review had been finalised but had not been published.

SCOPR results have been released every year since highlighting which publicly-funded research organisations are creating the most inventions and startup spinouts, while also tracking the organisations’ overall industry engagement metrics.

Department of Education, Research Division, first assistant secretary Dom English said the research sector and the government had a mutual interest in demonstrating impact.

“With such an important agenda to drive collaboration, workforce mobility, and appetite for commercialisation, this survey will help build the evidence base to ensure our programs deliver the behavioural and cultural change, as well as success, that we’re setting out to achieve,” he said in KCA’s announcement.

“Through this partnership, the Department and KCA will be working closely with universities to increase their participation and engagement and maximise the quality and comprehensiveness of the information provided.”

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