How can we bridge the gap between academic research and private enterprise in Australia?

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CRC’s Manufacturing Innovation Manager for Innovative Manufacturing, Dr. Matthew Young, began his career with a PhD in industry at Comalco, before moving from metals to composites. He worked for 14 years at Boeing, including materials and process development on the 787 mobile trailing edge, then as chief engineer in Hengshen, China, before returning to CRC. IMRCC oversees 70 projects, most of them larger, multi-year, multi-partner efforts, but also a collection of smaller projects under its Activate program.

Young thinks company size and local attitudes are part of the puzzle. The Australian business landscape is characterized by a large number of small businesses: as of June 30, 2021, 97% of Australian businesses had fewer than 20 employees.

Dr Matthew Young

“Once you reach a certain scale and realize your potential for growth and where you need to go, collaboration becomes more of an integral part of the business rather than day-to-day operations, so scale is a contributing factor. “, said Young. create.

“Also in Australia we have a bit of a hard time identifying who our competition really is…There are so many small businesses that would benefit from business-to-business collaborations as well as business-to-academic collaborations, rather than identifying their competition that the company able to do the same a few blocks away.

Chalmers agreed that, at the smaller end of the scale, there isn’t much room to think beyond firefighting and making and releasing products.

“Internal innovation plays a very big role in this area, but what can sometimes be difficult is actually looking outward to see what is happening in the research sector,” said- she declared. “How does this apply to my business and how can I engage meaningfully? I think it’s a constant challenge.

World ranking of start-up ecosystems

Making university research commercialization work

As part of the latest attempt to improve dance collaboration, the federal government has announced a Pioneer Universities Program in November 2021. This was part of a broader action plan for the commercialization of university research (URC), announced in February this year. Other important elements of the plan include the the Australian Economic Accelerator, 1900 industry doctorates and 800 scholarships.

The Trailblazer program pledges $50 million in commercialization support over four years to four successful universities with successful business cases, and an additional $8 million in access to CSIRO facilities. University business cases are assessed on proposed reforms to build links with industry, promote researchers with industrial impact, and implement industry-friendly intellectual property agreements.

Each academic hub must be based on one of the six National Manufacturing Priorities set in 2020 (Defense, Space, Food and Beverage, Resource Technology and Critical Minerals, Medical Products or Recycling, and Clean Energy).

The AEA would provide 96 grants worth up to $500,000 each in the first stage, 36 grants of up to $5 million in the second stage and a third stage administered by MSV – which gets an additional $150 million in funding. dollars – to support between 33 and 50 businesses.

Trailblazer University funding is slated for July 2022, and the AEA will be accepting applications at a similar time.

“It was really encouraging that the government is taking this seriously, that they are listening, and I really like the idea that they are focusing a lot on universities and… what is needed in terms of creating a good innovation and start-up ecosystem,” said Philip Longley, senior policy adviser at Engineers Australia, although he added that the plan seemed “an easy fix” at the same time.

“Because the tax is difficult. Deregulation is difficult. And maybe part of the problem is that if you’re an investor, from a tax point of view, it’s really not competitive to invest in Australian start-ups compared to the United States and the UK. So rather than looking at what I would call structural issues, which are over-regulation and basically an inadequate tax system, they just pump more money into it.

Another criticism could be that these new programs will simply be dropped as part of a long, confusing, bipartisan history of chopping and changing industrial policy every few years when a new government takes power.

Value extraction

As with industrial policy since October 2020 and the launch of the modern manufacturing strategy, projects that fall outside the six priority sectors will not be eligible for support. Young described targeting as a double-edged sword: the focus is where there are many opportunities in manufacturing, but those in the automotive supply chain or building products sector are left behind. side, for example.


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