The Federal Government has unveiled a $3.1 billion package, including an increased commitment for scholarships and mentoring, aimed at boosting the ailing research industry.
Launching the National Research Workforce Strategy, Innovation Minister Kim Carr says: “The research workforce is ageing, and the skill needs of the economy are growing. We face a net shortfall in the supply of research skills to 2020, which will be even more acute if we meet our participation targets at the undergraduate level.”
“We are struggling to attract and retain women and indigenous Australians in the research workforce. We are not competing effectively for international talent, and we do not have enough PhD-trained researchers working in industry.”
“This year alone, we are investing almost $9 million in science, research and innovation – a 34% increase over the high-water mark achieved by the previous government.”
Carr said one of the main issues plaguing Australia’s research workforce is the divide between research and industry.
“The future of our manufacturing and other industries depends on our ability to innovate through research and development,” Carr said.
“This is important if industry is to prosper in the low-carbon economy of the future. Industry and researchers must work together to transform the products we produce and the way we manufacture.”
Carr said the Government is already providing incentives to embed researchers in business, including the introduction of the Industrial PhDs scheme and Researchers in Business program.
He said the Government is also supporting researchers at every stage of their careers, to the tune of more than $1.5 billion next year.
“We are doubling the number of research scholarships, and we boosted the stipend by 10%,” he said.
“We have also created two new fellowships for senior female researchers, who will act as mentors for talented women at all levels.”
“We will also strengthen the incentive for business to invest in research and put more researchers on their payrolls. That includes seeing our sweeping R&D taxation reform measures through the Senate.”
“The Government will also invest $1 million in the Australian Technology Network’s new Doctoral Training Centre for Industry in Mathematics,” Carr said.
“The centre is a pilot for a new model of PhD education, structured to turn research students into innovation leaders.”
However, not everyone is happy with the funding allocations, with the Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations among the stakeholders who had hoped for more.
“We are aware the Government is under tight funding constraints at the moment, especially following the natural disasters, but it’s important to invest in research,” CAPA president John Nowakowski says.