The report of the Review into the Cooperative Research Centres (CRC) program, released by the Industry Minister today has been met with disappointment and concern for the future of Australian collaborative research.
Responding to the review, the Shadow Minister for Research, Innovation and Industry, Senator Kim Carr, said that this report will be a major blow to CRCs.
“The Abbott Government has already cut $107 million from the CRC program and now this review puts the whole collaborative research model in jeopardy.”
Key recommendations would see:
The CRC program restricted to commercial, industry partnerships in five sectors (food and agribusiness; mining equipment, technology and services; medical technologies and pharmaceuticals; advanced manufacturing; and oil, gas and energy resources).
CRC funding restricted to a maximum of ten years, with no identified pathway to ensure highly effective and valuable research collaborations are sustained.
The public good aspect discontinued and any CRCs that deliver on broader priorities fobbed off to other Departments.
“Ian Macfarlane’s fingerprints are all over these recommendations,” said Senator Carr
“The Minister just doesn’t get it. He is seeking to narrow the focus of collaborative research in this country precisely when we need to be diversifying our economy and strengthening our innovation ecosystem to support the jobs of the future.
“His obsession with his stunted growth centres model and his favourite five sectors ignores the complexity of the Australian economy.
“Tourism, services, construction and even information technology are all completely disregarded – not to mention anything that doesn’t deliver a direct profit to business.
“This report is yet another example of a backward-looking Government that is only willing to put value on activities that occur in the private sector.
“They don’t seem to realise that Australia’s not-for-profit sector contributes more than $43 billion to our GDP, and accounts for 8 per cent of total employment.
“The public sector, of course, employs many more – and its efficiency and effectiveness is of critical value to all Australians.
“There are currently 35 CRCs addressing issues of vital importance to Australia’s economic, social and environmental wellbeing.
“Some of the most transformative CRCs have a large element of public benefit, partnering with end-users like hospitals, environmental managers, State Governments and remote Indigenous communities.
“These CRCs are now at risk as a result of this review, and their valuable partnerships are set to be trashed by the short-sighted Abbott Government.
“Nowhere in the world are the kinds of industry-research partnerships that the CRC program supports self-sustaining without government support.
“According to the CRC Association, every $22 from the CRC program attracts another $78 from end-users. This is a rate co-investment virtually unmatched around the world, but public funding is the necessary glue that makes it a reality.
“This Minister has not only overseen funding cuts, he has also kept two CRCs in limbo for months, waiting for new funding agreements to be announced.
“Support for the Advanced Manufacturing and Optimising Resource Extraction CRCs is set to expire at the end of June, and the Minister still won’t say whether they have new contracts – even though they fit right into his precious priorities.
“I call on him now to clarify the future of not just these CRCs, but the whole program.”
The CRCs that fall outside the priority areas identified in the review include (but are certainly not limited to):
CRC for Remote Economic Participation
CRC for Cancer therapeutics
CRC for Mental Health
CRC for living with Autism Spectrum Disorders
Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC
Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems CRC