Release type: Speech

Date:

Business Council of Australia’s Advanced Manufacturing Forum

Ministers:

The Hon Alan Tudge MP
Minister for Education and Youth

**Check against delivery**

It’s great to be able to join you all remotely today. I’m looking forward to when we can do these events in person again soon.

We’re here to discuss a critical issue for Australia: how to build the industries of the future, and to create the jobs of the next decade and beyond. Advanced manufacturing presents great economic opportunities for Australia, and our Government is strongly committed to working alongside business leaders such as yourselves to capture these opportunities.

Critically in my portfolio, capturing these opportunities means shifting the dial on research commercialisation in this country.

This is about how we can apply our best minds to build our economic future.

It’s also about the role we want our universities to play.

COVID, and its impacts on international student enrolments, have presented us with an opportunity to reassess the impact our universities can have, and to refocus on the main purpose of public universities: to educate Australians and produce knowledge that contributes to our country.

We want our universities to not just produce brilliant pure research but to work more with businesses to translate this research into breakthrough products, new businesses and ideas to grow our economy and strengthen our society.

Australian universities are already undertaking world-class research, but they often fall short in translating that research into commercial or social benefits. Too often, our research does not make it through the valley of death and is left on the shelf.

We do have some outstanding examples of research commercialisation in this country. WEHI is an international leader in the health and medical field. CSIRO has had extraordinary success.

We are home to Cochlear, one of the world’s standout research commercialisation stories – and we are lucky enough to have CEO Dig Howitt on the call today.

But overall, the data shows we clearly trail the leading nations such as the US and Israel.

We also know that other nations, such as Canada and the UK, have made bold moves in this policy area to capture the opportunities of research commercialisation and greater collaboration between business and industry.

The Taskforce established by the Government last year has studied these countries closely, and I have worked closely with them to draw lessons for how we can shift the dial on commercialisation outcomes here in Australia.  Can I thank the panel members on the call today – Dig and Andrew Stevens – who have done a terrific job advising the Government on these issues.

I want to share with you today three of the lessons we have learnt as we develop our new approach.

The first lesson is that our programs and our funding must be priority-driven, absolutely focused on core areas where Australia has competitive advantage and where greater research commercialisation could turbocharge our success.

That’s where advanced manufacturing, and in particular, the Modern Manufacturing Strategy, comes in. The 6 National Manufacturing Priorities – resources technology and critical minerals processing, food and beverage, medical products, recycling and clean energy, defence, and space – are all areas in which Australia can compete on the global stage, create new jobs and new wealth.

We need to back in those priorities to create critical mass, to have our best researchers delivering breakthrough R&D in these areas, our leading industry players and venture capital firms leaning in and investing in these areas. Working together, Australia can be a global leader in all 6 manufacturing priorities.

The second lesson is that reforms must be integrated across a whole ecosystem. It’s not enough to bolt-on one scheme, or tweak incentives in one program. We have to take a broader view of the whole commercialisation system, and change settings from university research funding through to industry incentives to take risks and pull ideas through the innovation pipeline.

A big part of this ecosystem is what I call the bedrock of collaboration. If you have people generally interacting between business and universities — at an undergraduate level, at postgraduate, and at academic level — then the common language emerges, and ideas will generate. As the Chief Defence Scientist said to me: academics are natural problem solvers. If they are simply in the same room as the businesspeople, they won’t be able to help themselves but to solve their challenges!

We need to do more to grow this bedrock of collaboration. It will go a long way to aligning priorities between businesses and universities and developing a common culture of problem-solving and innovation.

The third and final lesson is that not everyone is going to move at the same pace on the commercialisation agenda. Some universities are already showing themselves to be the early leaders on business collaboration and an increased focus on research translation and commercialisation – rather than pure discovery. Some businesses will take more risks, engage in new partnerships with researchers, lean in more to future-focused innovation.

I say to those universities and businesses: you have a partner in the Australian Government. We want to work with these early leaders who have shown themselves capable and willing to lead the charge and become lighthouses for the research and business sectors.

Let me conclude today by saying thank you for your interest and commitment to advanced manufacturing and research commercialisation. I’m looking forward to the discussion today, and to working together to deliver the reforms that will help to build our future economy.