Direct Incentives are Needed to Improve Australia’s Research Commercialisation, and the Post-Covid Economy

April 19th, 2021

The black box flight recorder, Polymer bank notes, Wi-Fi technology and cochlear implants – they’re all Australian inventions. To keep these developments coming, and improve our research and innovation, we need direct investment through university innovation and small business incentives.

Right now, Australia’s indirect incentives – specifically the R&D Tax Incentive – are providing 86% of our business research support. While that’s an impressive number, the R&D Tax Incentive offers money back, meaning small businesses could miss out if they don’t have the funding from the outset.

Universities Australia chief executive Catriona Jackson says to look overseas for good examples of research commercialisation. In the U.S., for example, there’s a broad mix of tax-based and direct incentives for business, with programs like the Small Business Innovation Research helping to add that timely cash boost to innovate technology.

The programs that assist – that we’re missing in Australia – have three things in common:

  1. They create direct incentives for businesses to partner with researchers to develop cutting-edge technology;
  2. They have long-term predictability; and,
  3. They target small businesses, giving them the chance to expand, and in turn diversify the economy.

With Australia having some of the best universities in the world for research, it’s the perfect opportunity to incentivise university and business collaborations. Federal Education Minister Alan Tudge has released a consultation paper to hear big ideas about how universities and businesses can help fuel the economic recovery following the COVID-19 pandemic.

A direct government incentive will allow Australian universities to continue to pursue both applied and basic research, with assistance on the commercial potential and scaling aspect. And, it will allow companies to explore their commercial ideas with industry experts, improving the quality and speed of their developments. It’ll provide the opportunity to make the connection points between business and universities more porous — allowing ideas and people to seamlessly travel back and forth.


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