Go8 Submission to ISA 2030 Strategic Plan Issues Paper

14 Jun 2017
The Group of Eight (Go8) welcomes the opportunity to comment on the Innovation and Science Australia (ISA) 2030 Strategic Plan Issues Paper, released on 24 March 2017.

The Go8 institutions may make individual and more detailed responses to the report and therefore the Go8 response is deliberately high-level.

The Go8 represents Australia’s leading research-intensive universities, accounting for over two-thirds of Australian university research activity, spending around $6 billion per year on research with the Go8 investing $3.2 billion annually in applied research and experimental development. The Go8 are consistently the highest ranked Australian universities in international rankings, and have educated almost 80 per cent of the Australian-educated Chief Executives of the nation’s top companies. Go8 research has resulted in significant innovations with social, commercial and health applications including the cervical cancer vaccine Gardasil, the Cochlear implant to assist the hearing impaired and SNAP technology vital to anti-terrorism airport surveillance.

Recommendations
  1. That a new narrative and vision centring on Australia’s innovation potential needs to consider the significance of our role in this regard in the region and the world in addition to the national or local perspective to be truly influential.
  2. That a more nuanced view of the sustainability of Australia’s research strengths as a key contribution to innovation is taken in developing the 2030 Strategy, that recognises that our continued capability as a top-performing research nation depends on addressing key points of weakness in our funding framework. 
  3. That efforts to advance Australia’s innovativeness on the basis of collaboration between researchers and businesses, universities and industry must start from a more realistic view of what levels of collaboration exist, where this best occurs and can be productively optimised – versus broader targets of increasing overall proportions of collaboration. 
  4. That policy consistency is necessary to a long-term effort to foster innovation and that the development of new regulatory and policy measures by Government must pay heed to the possible impact they may have on fostering or preventing innovation. The Government may wish to consider including a checkpoint for portfolios to consider implications for innovation from any new proposed policy.
  5. That a more fine-tuned understanding of how Australia’s and the global workforce will evolve in the future is needed if we are to refine the ways in which skills are developed with a focus on innovation and innovative workforces of the future.
  6. That international connectivity and prominence must be recognised as vital aspects to progressing Australia’s leadership in innovation, and that isolation would threaten our past, existing and future endeavours.
  7. That a more thorough, regular and prominent celebration of Australia’s innovative successes is activated and continually supported as a basis for a cultural shift towards a consistently high performing innovative nation.

Key points

  1. Innovation at its most impactful extends beyond any single sector or sphere of activity, beyond national boundaries, to the creation of a transformational change for humanity. A new narrative is needed that reflects this breadth of impact and the significant part that Australia has to play, builds the national consciousness of the impact we can have for ourselves and the world, and fosters individual and shared benefits. 
  2. A strongly supported and impactful Australian research system, underpinned by effectively and reliably publicly funded university research, is vital to an innovative Australia. Government and others cannot afford to be complacent about the support needed to ensure the continued strength of the research system.
  3. Australian university research is not only a prime contributor to knowledge creation, but universities also play an undervalued role in knowledge transfer and application. Both external and internal perceptions and approaches need to be modified. Any future measures promoting collaboration between university researchers and businesses must take an accurate view of the level of collaboration that exists already, how and to what degree this can in fact be fostered or raised.
  4. Policy consistency and continuity are vital to ensure innovation thrives and that the best outcomes possible result from efforts by universities and industry. Relatedly, more could be also done within Government to minimise regulatory or policy barriers to innovation. 
  5. It is important to not only grasp the impact of predicted technological change such as automation on our future workforce, but also what job trends will emerge, where and how these will be sustainable, and what patterns of skill transferability will be likely needed. 
  6. Innovation, like research, cannot flourish fully in isolation. Strengthened regional and international connectivity and engagement is vital to Australia’s potential as an innovative nation and should be a central pillar of the 2030 Strategic Plan, reflecting Australia’s growing role in the global arena, and reinforcing and adding to those areas of research and innovation where Australia is world-class. 
  7. Australian innovations and innovative solutions, especially those of national or international significance, should be more routinely and regularly spotlighted, recognised and rewarded. 
  8. The Go8 endorses the concept of picking our wins and being selective in where and how we invest where it comes to bold, high impact, and ground-breaking projects while fostering broader grass-roots benefits and relevance where possible. However, this must be hand-in-hand with continued longer policy arrangements and investments to support ongoing innovative efforts. 
  For the full submission, please click on the link below.