Group of Eight backs stronger governance for Australian Research Council

Australia’s future prosperity will hinge on the capacity of our world-class researchers to undertake cutting edge research in collaboration with industry to meet our national priorities and support our economy and society.

Group of Eight Chief Executive Vicki Thomson said the Government’s decision to reform the current governance structure and priorities of the Australian Research Council (ARC) was an important step towards achieving this goal.

Recently the Go8 wrote to the Minister for Education to advise that the ARC’s governance arrangements were inadequate and did not reflect the best practice of international funding agencies.

“The Government’s decision to set a new direction for the ARC is timely in light of the challenges we face as a result of COVID and the changing demands of new and emerging industries,” said Ms Thomson.

“The Morrison Government’s explicit commitment to retain a “strong publicly funded research agenda in Australia’s universities, particularly the blue-sky research delivered through the ARC Discovery Program” is particularly important to Australia’s future prosperity. Blue-sky or basic research is critical because we know the opportunity to commercialise research can only arise from high-quality basic research.

“The Go8 undertakes 70 percent of university-based research in Australia and pushes above its weight in commercialisation of research. We generate the largest share of commercialisation revenue for the sector in Australia and attract industry funding for research that is twice that of the rest of the sector combined. In 2020 the Go8 collectively earned $95.5 million in research commercialisation income, more than twice that of the CSIRO ($43.3 million).

The Go8 however, has called on the Government to urgently finalise approval of ARC Discovery Grants as the consequences of further delay will have a significant impact on Australia’s capacity to deliver world class research and boost economic prosperity.

“Go8 researchers prepared and submitted applications almost 12 months ago, applicants’ responses to the assessment closed six months ago and some projects are scheduled to commence in a matter of weeks. The current delay is unprecedented and not seen in the 30-year history of this and similar funding rounds.

“Discovery Projects are the backbone of Australia’s non-medical basic research and national innovation effort. In the 2021 round over 60% of Discovery Projects directly supported the National Science and Research Priorities across Advanced Manufacturing, Cybersecurity, Energy, Environmental change, Food, Resources, Soil and Water, and Transport.

“Other potential consequences of further delay could see our talented researchers reassess their options and choose to move offshore or leave the sector. An urgent resolution to this delay would send the signal to our research community that reform is genuinely underway.”

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