The Minister for Industry and Science has released the report of the Miles Review of the Cooperative Research Centres (CRC) Program. The Review made a total of 18 recommendations. All the recommendations have been accepted by the Australian Government and will now be implemented.
Release of the report follows a $26.8 million cut to CRC program over the next 4 years, on the back of last year’s cut of $80 million and suspension of a funding round midway through.
The Review found that the program was valuable and effective and should continue with a more targeted focus on delivering outcomes for industry through industry-led research.
The Review says that the CRC Program can “be the engine of innovative research to support the work of the Growth Centres and develop areas identified by industry and Growth Centres, commercialise them, and take them to domestic and international markets.” The Industry Growth Centres were announced as part of the Industry Innovation and Competitiveness Agenda and the related Boosting the Commercial Returns of Research strategy. The Review also recommended identifying opportunities for existing CRCs to link with Industry Growth Centres.
The Review did not support the recommendation of the 2014 National Commission of Audit to abolish the CRC Program. Taking this course of action would, they said, “risk even lower levels of industry-led collaborative research in Australia than is currently the case.”
The Review said there were a range of barriers to SMEs participating fully in the CRC Program and recommended a new CRC projects stream with shorter timeframes and smaller budgets (with funding limited to a maximum of three years) to facilitate greater involvement in industry-research collaboration activities. The review recommended that no new funding be provided to implement this new project stream. The stream would, the Review says, support short-term industry-led research while the traditional CRCs would continue to support medium to long-term industry-led collaborations.
The need to make use of best practice frameworks in the area of intellectual property, reviewing existing CRCs progress against intended outcomes, and simplifying the selection and review processes were also part of the report’s recommendations.
Professional Scientists Australia President Robyn Porter welcomed the continuation of the program saying it recognises the enormous innovation and commercialisation potential realised by the program over its 25-year history. “Retaining the CRC program puts science and research at the centre of industry policy – and this is what we’ve long been advocating.”
“Investment in science, engineering and technology research in partnership with industry is a predictor of national innovative capability, and in turn productivity and global competitiveness. Without an ongoing commitment to industry/research sector collaboration, our status as “the Clever Country” is seriously at risk.”