The tertiary education sector in NSW has been thrown a lifeline with the state government to guarantee up to $750 million in commercial loans to help universities recover from the impact of the health crisis.
NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet said the loan guarantees would help the universities bridge the gap between the Commonwealth higher education relief package and what the state’s unis need to recover.
The state higher education ecosystem has 301,000 domestic and 121,000 international university students. About 30 per cent of Australia’s international student population attend one of the ten universities in NSW.
“Our State’s public universities directly employ over 15,200 academic staff and more than 18,700 professional staff, including full-time equivalent casual staff, and they support thousands of indirect jobs,” Mr Perrottet said. “It is critical we position our universities for a dynamic recovery from the impacts of COVID-19.”
“This is about getting people back to work and providing a helping hand to get the university sector back up and running while helping future proof these vital institutions, making them more resilient and enabling them to come out the other side of this pandemic stronger than ever.
Universities can also apply for funding from the $25 million package for medical research and vaccine trials to help develop a cure for COVID-19 and $11 million COVID research translation fund.
Gabrielle Upton, a Parliamentary Secretary assisting the Premier, has been coordinating policy work on the NSW research and development ecosystem that pre-dates the coronavirus crisis, said investment in research commercialisation was a key to supporting economic recovery.
“There is no doubt that COVID-19 has created many challenges for universities and our research organisations. Universities, in particular, have had their research funding model disrupted,” Ms Upton told InnovationAus.
“However, the critical role that science and medicine have played in guiding our COVID-19 health response means that the value of research is more visible and widely respected,” she said.
“The commercialisation of R&D and innovation also generates jobs which is the key to supporting our economic recovery. Universities also play a critical role in the broader innovation ecosystem along with startups, incubators, accelerators, companies and venture capitalists.”
Ms Upton said the Accelerating R&D Advisory Committee (ARDAC) chaired by David Gonski was supporting Treasury on crafting the COVID economic stimulus package with its focus on R&D commercialisation and innovation as a lever for immediate job creation.
“It is gratifying that our work has led directly to R&D commercialisation and innovation being called out and framed as an economic lever in Treasury’s proposed response,” she said.
“We will present our Action Plan on accelerating R&D commercialisation and broader innovation issues to the Premier after this urgent work is completed.”