Review of Research Policy and Funding Arrangements

On 7 July 2015, the then Minister for Education and Training, the Hon Christopher Pyne MP appointed Dr Ian Watt AO to conduct a review of research policy and funding arrangements (the review). The review was given the task of developing options to strengthen Australia’s research system and encourage greater collaboration between universities and business and other research end users to enable Australia’s high quality research to be translated into economic and social benefits for the nation.

On 6 May 2016, the Government announced it has accepted all the review’s recommendations to strengthen Australia’s research system, improve collaboration between universities and business, and translate research outcomes into economic and social benefits. These actions will build on the measures announced as part of the National Innovation and Science Agenda on 7 December 2015.

The Minister for Education and Training’s media release

The Turnbull Government’s response to the review

The review developed recommendations which in broad terms aim to:

  • ensure the quality and excellence of Australian university research and research training
  • allocate funding through Research Block Grants (RBG) in a simpler and more transparent manner
  • provide incentives to universities to increase and improve engagement and collaboration with business and other end-users
  • encourage universities to engage in research commercialisation and knowledge transfer with business and the broader community, including through funding incentives and a focus on more effective management of intellectual property (IP)
  • ensure that competitive grant criteria recognise the quality of the proposal and support the opportunities for commercialisation and collaboration with business.

As part of the review consultation process, universities were invited to submit case studies to highlight particularly productive relationships they had cultivated with end users of research.

The report of the review and the volume of case studies have been released.

The Report

Case Studies Volume

Consultation

The review conducted a range of consultations and roundtables with universities, research bodies and institutes, business and industry leaders and government representatives over a period of four months to inform the recommendations of the review. These have been included in the appendix of the report.

Submissions

The issues paper for the Review of Research Policy and Funding Arrangements was released on 11 August 2015. The submission process sought input on the issues and proposals raised in the discussion paper and closed on 18 September 2015.

Submissions

Terms of Reference
Review of Research Policy and Funding Arrangements

On 7 July 2015, the Government announced the Australian Government will undertake a review of university research funding and policy as part of its Boosting the Commercial Returns from Research strategy.

Context

As part of its Boosting the Commercial Returns from Research strategy, the Government has committed to an Agenda for Action that includes a range of actions to enhance the contribution of research in universities and industry to building Australia’s capacity for innovation, productivity and growth, including:

  • the development of simpler, more transparent research block grant arrangements which continue to focus on quality and excellence, support greater industry and end-user engagement, and better knowledge transfer with industry,
  • working with the Australian Research Council and the National Health and Medical Research Council to ensure rules for competitive grants appropriately recognise industry-relevant expertise or research,
  • ensuring that dealing with intellectual property facilitates research-industry collaboration and the commercialisation of ideas,
  • improving the assessment of the research system such as improved metrics on engagement and knowledge transfer with industry, research outcomes, and impact, and
  • commissioning a review of research training arrangements by the Australian Council of Learned Academies to ensure that it meets Australia’s research needs in the 21st century.

Maximising the economic and social benefits from research requires a strong research base, built through an effective network of research institutions, able to access world-class researchers delivering quality research and research infrastructure.

Accordingly, the former Minister for Education and Training, the Hon Christopher Pyne MP, commissioned Dr Ian Watt AO to conduct a review of relevant research funding programmes, system performance measures and policy settings to identify a range of reform options that will strengthen Australia’s research system and deliver on the Government’s Boosting the Commercial Returns from Research Agenda to encourage collaboration and engagement between universities and industry and other end users.

Terms of reference

The review will identify opportunities for the reform of research policy and funding arrangements within the Education and Training portfolio to deliver on the Government’s Agenda for Action under the Boosting the Commercial Returns from Research strategy.

In particular, the review will provide advice to Government on arrangements that would ensure the world class research undertaken by the higher education system in Australia is translated into economic advantage for the nation with options to:

  • ensure the quality and excellence of Australian university research and research training,
  • allocate existing research block grant funding in a simpler and more transparent manner,
  • provide incentives to universities to increase and improve engagement and collaboration with industry and other end‑users,
  • encourage universities to engage in research commercialisation and knowledge transfer with industry and the broader community, including through funding incentives and a focus on more effective management of intellectual property, and
  • ensure that competitive grant criteria recognise the quality of the proposal and where appropriate the opportunity for commercialisation and collaboration with industry.

The review will also consider the development of measures of research-industry engagement and collaboration, including the availability of international rankings to compare performance and drive improvement over time.

The recommendations of the review should reflect the Government’s commitment to a world-class research and research training system, including: quality, impact, research-industry linkage, commercialisation, and international collaboration.

The review should as far as practicable take account of, and align with, the implementation of the National Science and Research Priorities, the Review of Australia’s Research Training System by the Australian Council of Learned Academies, the Research Infrastructure Review, the Higher Education Infrastructure Working Group, the Miles Review of the Cooperative Research Centres Programme and other actions being taken to implement the BCR strategy.

The review’s proposals will be limited to the arrangements within the Education and Training portfolio and arrangements in other portfolios that directly impact on the research policy and funding arrangements in that portfolio.

Working group

Dr Watt will be assisted in this Review by a small working group of experts with knowledge of the higher education and research sector, comprising:

  • Professor Peter Coaldrake AO, Vice-Chancellor of the Queensland University of Technology,
  • Professor Edwina Cornish AO, Provost and Senior Vice-President of Monash University,
  • Professor Sandra Harding, Vice-Chancellor of James Cook University,
  • Mr Conor King, Executive Director of the Innovative Research Universities group, and
  • Professor Steven Schwartz AM, Executive Director of the Council for the Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences, and former Vice Chancellor of Macquarie, Brunel, and Murdoch universities.