Govt to replace research infrastructure plan

Joseph Brookes
Senior Reporter

A government appointed group chaired by Dr Ziggy Switkowski will lead the development of a new 10-year roadmap for Australia’s research infrastructure priorities, with the plan to be released later this year to replace the 2016 version.

The government agreed to nine key recommendations of the 2016 plan and provided funding in the 2018 budget to deliver them over 12 years. But it now says that new priorities and focus areas are needed for the $4 billion earmarked for national research infrastructure to 2028-29.

“The world has changed significantly since the 2016 Roadmap and our national research infrastructure has played a vital role in supporting Australia’s recovery from events like bushfires and the COVID-19 pandemic,” Education Minister Alan Tudge said in a statement.

“Our world-class science and research will continue to contribute to Australia’s response to the evolving challenges and opportunities we now face, and the roadmap will ensure our efforts are focussed on key areas.”

Minister for Education and Youth Alan Tudge says new priorities are needed in Australian research Infrastructure

The Expert Working Group has been tasked with consulting with research communities, universities, industry, and state and territory governments to develop the roadmap that will help guide future investments in national research infrastructure.

The group includes academics, researchers, and AI and resources sector executives.

Australia’s National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS) facilities employ 1,400 high skilled staff and support around 65,000 public and private sector researchers, according to the federal government.

The 2021 Research Infrastructure Roadmap will update the 2016 plan which was developed by then-chief scientist Dr Alan Finkel.

The 2016 roadmap outlined nine key areas of funding priority which the government used to help direct a $2 billion, 12-year national research infrastructure investment plan announced in 2018.

Australia’s current chief scientist Dr Cathy Foley will be involved in the new working group as an ex-officio member, along with deputy secretaries from the Industry department and Education department.

But the group will be led by Dr Ziggy Switkowski, the current non-executive chairman of the NBN Co and former boss of Telstra and Optus, where he oversaw the former’s privatisation.

Dr Switkowski will be joined by the University of Melbourne academics, health researchers, and executives from AI and fossil fuel companies.

The Expert Working Group members are:

  • Dr Ziggy Switkowski AO (chair)
  • Professor Liz Sonenberg
  • Dr Chris Roberts AO
  • Professor Barbara Howlett
  • Dr Michelle Perugini
  • Ms Lauren Stafford

The working group also includes ex-officio members:

  • Dr Cathy Foley AO PSM, Australia’s Chief Scientist
  • Rob Heferen, Deputy Secretary Department of Education, Skills and Employment
  • David Williamson, Deputy Secretary Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources

Industry Minister Christian Porter said the group’s work on the roadmap would lead to better access for researchers to research technologies.

“Cutting-edge capabilities don’t appear overnight. Through the roadmap process, we can identify the domestic research infrastructure needed to help existing industries expand and innovate,” Mr Porter said.

“Investments in digital technology, science and research capability are fundamental to delivering on Government priorities, including boosting our manufacturing capability and securing Australia’s future prosperity and long-term productivity.”

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