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Threat of cuts shifts funding focus to industry

The University of Melbourne is ready to shift its focus for funding from the federal government to industry, according to a strategy published on 26 September.

The report, authored by the university’s deputy vice chancellor of research, James McCluskey, sets goals towards 2025.

The likelihood of federal grant freezes and cuts means that in order to achieve growth in research revenue, the university must consider funding sources other than the federal government. The most obvious are international schemes, philanthropy, corporate or industry research funds, and business partnerships, McCluskey writes.

But in order to attract more corporate funding it is essential that that the university becomes a better partner, he notes, which means a “major cultural change” in how research is delivered, with, for example, a stronger focus on impact.

“We must become better at generating and rewarding impact as a goal of research, as well as academic quality”, the report says.

The Melbourne strategy comes as the federal government is reviewing all “uncommitted” expenditure for 2012-13. This is holding up decisions on funding for all grant programmes, including the Cooperative Research Centres (CRCs).

Nine consortia have been left waiting to hear whether they will proceed in the round. Normally, the CRC shortlist for the year comes in the last week of August.

The government is committed to delivering a budget surplus in the current financial year, but lower-than-expected tax revenue and a number of new priorities have led to the review.