Call to restore public investment in research flat

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Australian scientists urged political leaders to deal with declining levels of research funding in Australia in their upcoming electoral policies or risk a further drop in global rankings as other countries spend.

Australia’s spending on research and development as a percentage of GDP is 1.79 percent, according to the latest available data.

This puts Australia below the OECD average and the UK, EU and US, all of which have been trending upward for about a decade. But during this period, Australian investment in R&D has steadily declined and stabilized between 2018 and 2020 at just 1.79%.

Seismic investment in R&D needed to place Australia among world leaders, scientists warn

Science & Technology Australia (STA), which represents 90,000 STEM professionals in research and development, is now calling for a “seismic investment” in R&D which it says will create jobs in a “driven economic recovery. by STEM ”.

Following a leadership summit last week, the panel released ten all-party policy recommendations, well ahead of the next federal election, widely scheduled for May of next year.

Topping the list is the growth of Australian R&D investment until it reaches at least the top 10 worldwide, currently around 2.9% of GDP, according to OECD data.

STA chief executive Misha Schubert said science and technology had guided Australia’s response to the pandemic and it was time to put it at the center of the recovery with a “bold one-time investment in a generation “.

“Bolder strategic investments in R&D in artificial intelligence, quantum computing, clean energy, medical technologies, AgTech and a wide range of advanced sciences and technologies will create jobs and investments – and economic opportunities for our children, ”said Ms. Schubert.

“Australia should set a vision to become a global STEM superpower, with a bold investment objective in R&D, in a lucid strategic effort to seize the future jobs of our economic competitors.”

While Australia’s investment in R&D fell from 2.11% in 2011/12 to 1.79% in 2019/20, competing countries have moved in the other direction.

During this period, the US fell from 2.68 to 3.06 percent, the EU from 1.96 to 2.12 percent, while the OECD average fell from 2, 27 to 2.48 percent. Major nations, Israel and Korea, are investing more than 4% of their GDP in R&D, and many others are implementing policies to spur recoveries and secure sovereign capabilities exposed by the pandemic.

STA urges Australian politicians to invest billions more in Australian R&D, as this will create the industries and jobs of the future.

Its policy recommendations include a $ 2.4 billion research translation fund to help commercialize research, a comprehensive government-wide plan to coordinate investments in R&D, and more investment in grants for research. exploratory research.

The current government has indicated that it wants Australian researchers to do more to commercialize their work and is currently examining commercialization in the tertiary sector.

The commercialization review has raised fears that reforms will come at the expense of frontier research and the businessman who runs it suggested that funding for ongoing research could be tied to translation results. , but the final recommendations have yet to be released.

Labor has pledged to establish a $ 15 billion National Reconstruction Fund, part of which would go towards research translation. But the opposition has yet to detail the major research policies.

The STA also called for addressing the ‘broken system’ of precarious work linked to competitive research grants, a commitment to maintain funding for national science agencies and a global net zero plan, among others.

Do you know more? Contact James Riley by email.

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