“Removing the disincentive to industry investment through CRCs” says CRC Association CEO Tony Peacock when asked about the Association’s number one priority in the coming Federal Budget, due 13 May.
“We know it is a bit unusual in the lead-up to a Budget. Our first priority actually has no impact on the Budget and it would need to be actioned by the Education Minister, not the Treasurer or our own Minister”.
“But the new Government has asked for sensible policy decisions that would improve impact or efficiency. Changing the Higher Education Block Grant Funding arrangements would achieve both”.
The Higher Education Block Grant Funding Scheme is the biggest cash item in the Commonwealth Government entire range of innovation spending. “It is more than double the size of the Commonwealth’s investment in CSIRO” points out Dr Peacock, “But its distribution is rarely looked at. Australia relies on research done in our universities more than just about any other country; and we have the worst record in industry-academia collaboration”.
“So we have suggested to the Government that they should use the biggest tool they have to encourage more industry-academic collaboration. Currently, the returns to a university are significantly lower when universities researchers attract CRC contracts than more academically-based grants. So naturally they are encouraged by management to chase academically-based grants much harder than industry-based work. It is a pretty simple thing to change”.
The CRC Association presented its 2014 Budget Submission in January this year.
“We feel we’ve made a good case and we received a good hearing” says Dr. Peacock. “We are also seeking a small lift in the CRC Program’s budget of $50 million over the forward estimates. You have to remember that the Program’s budget has steadily declined in actual dollars since 2007, and the last time we had so few CRCs in the country was when Mr Keating was Prime Minister”.
CEO, CRC Association