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Science groups reiterate calls for 3% R&D spending target

Latest pre-budget submissions in Australia focus on spending target and boosting innovation

Research bodies in Australia are using pre-budget submissions to continue their push for a national R&D spending target of 3 per cent of GDP.

In its submission to the government ahead of the budget in May, Cooperative Research Australia prioritised the 3 per cent target and told the government to put a renewed “focus on programmes that unlock and incentivise business R&D”.

CRA wants a new R&D tax rebate specifically for spending on collaborative work, set at 20 per cent, and a realignment of the A$15 billion National Reconstruction Fund so that it takes into consideration other government grant schemes.

The group represents the Cooperative Research Centres, which use government funding to run industry-academia research partnerships on critical challenges.

‘Global laggard’

Science and Technology Australia, which represents more than 100,000 scientists and technologists, used its submission to call Australia a global “laggard” on R&D investment.

“We cannot await the next global crisis and hope that science can save us again if we don’t double down on our investments in it,” STA told the government.

It wants the 3 per cent target to be set for 2035, with an interim target of 2.4 per cent by 2030. To achieve this, the government should conduct “a swift review of the R&D system” and make immediate investments via a “Science and Technology Future Fund”. 

STA wants more money to be channelled through the Australian Research Council and the National Health and Medical Research Council, and increased research block grants for universities.

Industry-research collaboration

Other initiatives called for in the CRA submission include a A$1 million study of its programme, to result in a “guide to successful industry-research collaboration, translation and commercialisation”.

Australia also needs to increase the use of public procurement funds to support research outcomes “through the delicate stages of translation and commercialisation”, it said. The Cooperative Research Centres programme needs support for the startup of new centres and for “windup” procedures.

The Sydney Morning Herald recently reported that Ed Husic, the minister responsible for the Cooperative Research Centres programme, had expressed frustration at ministers being excluded from some pre-budget planning by the Treasury.

Biodiversity efforts

A submission from the Biodiversity Council focused on Australia’s international commitments and obligations, telling the government that it needs to “invest at least A$2bn annually to address the extinction crisis by restoring and protecting threatened species populations”.

“Australia has consistently underinvested in the protection and recovery of its native biodiversity and is one of the most underfunded nations when it comes to biodiversity conservation,” the council said.

It also wants more to be spent on purchasing land in order to protect it, as well as a national statement on total biodiversity expenditure and more action on climate commitments.

A version of this article also appeared in Research Europe