A $46.2 million cut to research commercialisation unveiled in the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook undermines confidence with national investment in R&D, according to peak body in science and technology, Science & Technology Australia.
The cut of $46.2 million over four years to Australia’s new research commercialisation fund – Australia’s Economic Accelerator – amounts to seven percent of the fund capital allocated in the last Budget.
The fund was announced and funded under the Morrison Government and legislated under the Albanese Government, and it has strong cross-party support across the Parliament.
The cut comes as Australia’s government investment in R&D has already plunged to a four-decade low – when Australia urgently needs to lift its investment in R&D, rather than raid it.
Science & Technology Australia President Professor Sharath Sriram called it a step in the wrong direction.
Professor Sriram said: “Australia urgently needs to invest more – not less – in research and development to generate the next wave of new jobs and income to secure the living standards of our kids and grandkids.
“Australia cannot afford to chip away at our investment in commercialising our research breakthroughs – delivering major dividends takes strategic, stable, and bold investment.”
After rising to 2.12 percent of GDP Australia’s national R&D spending in 2012 – a measure of innovation in the economy – fell to 1.8 percent of GDP in 2020 – however it continues to fall even under the new government.
Government spending on R&D (GERD) is at around 0.49 percent of GDP, which is below the long-term average of 0.6 percent and is the lowest level since the beginning of data collection in 1978–79.
Professor Sriram said: “We cannot afford to undermine certainty and confidence – which are crucial to the willingness of Australian industry to engage in research commercialisation.”
“We urge the Government and Education Minister Jason Clare to rethink this cut – especially as the Government considers the final report of the Australian Universities Accord in the months ahead.”
“The Accord urgently needs to deepen Australia’s ambition and investments in R&D to secure Australia’s economic future – starting in the May Budget in 2024.”
However, Science & Technology Australia welcomed the MYEFO confirmation of investments in expanding access to university for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, expanding Paid Parental Leave and the establishment of a new Board for the Australian Research Council.
Picture: Science & Technology Australia