Boosting the Commercial Returns from Research

Overall, the Australian research sector is highly productive, internationally connected, and recognised globally for high quality research.

  • In 2012 we contributed to 3.6 per cent of the world's research publications from 0.3 per cent of the world's population, ranking 9th in the OECD. 
  • Our research sector also demonstrably produces high quality outputs – improving its share of the top 1 per cent of highly cited publications from 3.6 per cent in 2005 to 6.3 per cent in 2013.

Despite this strong performance in producing excellent research, our ability to translate publicly funded research into commercial outcomes lags behind comparable countries.

  • In 2013, we ranked last in the OECD on the proportion of businesses which collaborate with research institutions on innovation.
  • Australia ranked 23rd out of 32 countries on the percentage of total research publications that are co-authored by industry and the research sector.

Public Consultations

To respond to this challenge, the Government released the Boosting the Commercial Returns from Research discussion paper in late 2014. The discussion paper acknowledged that better translation of research into commercial outcomes is a key part of building our capacity for innovation, which will grow successful Australian businesses and boost productivity and exports. The paper canvassed a range of actions and reforms to improve Australia’s economic performance through better translation of research into commercial outcomes for Australia. 

The discussion paper was a key element of the Industry Innovation and Competitiveness Agenda, released by the Prime Minister and the Minister for Industry and Science on 14 October 2014.

Consultations were held on the discussion paper around Australia and submissions were received from many stakeholders.

Stakeholders indicated broad support for the strategic directions set out in the discussion paper. In particular, there was broad support for the need to effect a cultural change to improve knowledge transfer from the research sector to industry. Stakeholders saw benefits in prioritising and focusing our national research agenda. They also offered practical suggestions for improving industry-research collaboration and engagement.

An agenda for action

In line with these directions, the Australian Government announced on 26 May 2015 that it will take the following actions to improve the extent of collaboration between research and industry in Australia.

  • The Government has published science and research priorities to align areas of national research excellence with Australia’s industrial strengths, global trends and community interests. Each priority will be supported by practical research challenges developed in consultation with experts from industry, research organisations and government. Where there are gaps, the Government will develop options for allocating research funding to challenges requiring additional attention.
  • The Government will develop simpler, more transparent research block grant arrangements which continue to focus on quality and excellence, support greater industry and end-user engagement, and better engagement and knowledge transfer with industry.
  • The Government is identifying further opportunities to enhance collaboration between publicly funded research agencies and industry.
  • The Government has commissioned a review of research training arrangements to prepare excellent researchers who work productively with industry to bring their ideas to market. A highly skilled research workforce is vital to Australia’s future prosperity.
  • As part of the tax discussion paper www.bettertax.gov.au, the Government is examining the operation of the Research and Development (R&D) Tax Incentive, within the broader context of reviewing the effectiveness of existing tax incentives for collaboration with public research institutions.
  • Work on the establishment of the Medical Research Future Fund, announced in the 2014-15 Budget, is ongoing and will provide a significant opportunity to support collaboration between researchers and industry partners to assist in the translation and commercialisation of Australian medical research.
  • The Government is also working with the Australian Research Council and the National Health and Medical Research Council to ensure rules for competitive grants appropriately recognise industry-relevant expertise or research.
  • The Government continues to support national world-class research infrastructure to attract the world’s best researchers and facilitate collaboration with industry. It has committed two years of operating funding to the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy, a critical element of the nation’s innovation system
  • The Research Infrastructure Review is currently underway and will report to the Government in mid-2015. The Review findings will provide a solid base for the Government to plan for national scale research infrastructure to support priority research of national significance. The Government will develop a roadmap for long-term research infrastructure investment.
  • The Government is developing an intellectual property (IP) Toolkit, with model contracts and case studies, to facilitate collaboration between research and industry. The toolkit will ensure that dealing with intellectual property does not impede research-industry collaboration or frustrates the commercialisation of ideas.
  • The Government will implement a strategy to provide business with greater online access to research. This will allow firms to more easily identify commercially relevant research as well as potential research partners.
  • The Government will consider options to consolidate relevant research programmes which focus on industry to increase their scale and effectiveness.
  • A whole-of-government policy will be developed for opening business and community access to publicly funded research publications and data.
  • Access to information about collaboration and commercialisation outcomes will improve our performance in translating research into economic outcomes. To ensure real improvements in this area, the Government will work with the research sector and industry to develop a plan to improve the assessment of the research system. This will include improved metrics on engagement and knowledge transfer with industry, research outcomes, and impact.

For further information contact: Manager, Research Commercialisation, (02) 6213 6400, collaborations@industry.gov.au.