House debates

Thursday, 17 February 2022


Higher Education Support Amendment (Australia’s Economic Accelerator) Bill 2022; Second Reading

11:52 am

Photo of Tim WilsonTim Wilson (Goldstein, Liberal Party, Assistant Minister to the Minister for Industry, Energy and Emissions Reduction) Share this | | Hansard source

I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

The Higher Education Support Amendment (Australia's Economic Accelerator) Bill 2022 amends the Higher Education Support Act 2003 (HESA) to provide increased support for the translation and commercialisation of the world-leading research undertaken at our universities.

Investment in research commercialisation will drive economic growth. The development of new technology and knowledge improves production processes, reduces costs and creates better and innovative new products for export. The benefits are shared through the economy as these new innovations are applied across industry and consumers reap the benefits of new and better products.

Australia produces world-leading foundational research but underperforms on commercialisation outcomes. This limits the economic impact of our universities and shrinks the return on the government's substantial research investment. Research breakthroughs are too often left on the shelf rather than taken down the innovation pipeline, which would create new jobs and lift productivity.

For Australia to realise new opportunities we need a well-functioning research ecosystem where our world-class research is translated into real-world innovations and productivity gains.

This bill will create a new set of arrangements aimed squarely at crossing the so-called valley of death between research outcomes and commercialisation. The bill will amend the Higher Education Support Act to provide for a new pathway of investments to assist eligible higher education providers to develop research in areas of national priority and progress new technologies and services to a state of commercial investor readiness.

This bill is a key milestone in the continued rollout of the government's university research commercialisation agenda, providing the legislative authority to establish the government's flagship research commercialisation program, Australia's Economic Accelerator, in the Other Grants Guidelines.

The AEA will accelerate reform in the higher education sector for translation and commercialisation research capacity by establishing an innovative funding program to invest initially in six priority driven objectives aligned with the National Manufacturing Priorities.

The AEA will feature a fast-fail model designed to attract projects with high commercialisation potential at the proof of concept or proof of scale level of commercial readiness. Projects will progress through the program based on continued success and achievement of milestones. To incentivise ongoing excellence, program funding will increase as projects mature towards at-scale commercialisation.

To support this new grant opportunity and ensure its success, the bill also establishes an innovative governance framework, including the new 'Australia's Economic Accelerator Advisory Board'. The board, which will have up to eight expert representatives from government, industry, business, and research sectors, will oversee the program and will draw upon their collective experience to drive the translation and commercialisation of university research.

Supporting the board, the bill also provides for specialist 'priority managers' to provide expert knowledge and skills to support funded projects.

Further amendments in this bill will also establish a range of new industry-led study and postgraduate research programs, building stronger linkages between industry and universities by creating a clear and structured research career pathway in innovation and commercialisation focused research.

Scholarships will support PhD students to demonstrate the value of their research to industry partners, or demonstrate their research capability against tangible, real-world challenges with industry for outcomes that have commercial and financial benefits. Scholarships will also support researchers employed at research and development active businesses to undertake a PhD whilst maintaining employment in a relevant industry.

Together, these scholarship programs will recognise and reward commercially focused research by supporting workforce mobility between industry and academia though elevated career pathways. Recipients will be supported to foster networks and linkages between university and industry, developing long-term partnerships and building a culture of collaboration.

These scholarships provide the foundation for a career in innovation—and further reforms to fellowship schemes administered by the Australian Research Council will build these career pathways in our universities.

It should no longer be the case that a researcher wanting to pursue the application of their research has to take time out from their academic career to do so.

The new innovation fellowships will ensure that time spent working with industry or in a start-up business is part of an academic career, with just as much value and recognition as the career pathways focused on teaching and research.

In summary, measures contained in this bill will make it easier for universities and businesses to work together to commercialise research that will build our sovereign capability and grow the economy.

By building on the government's earlier Job-ready Graduates reforms to higher education, this bill further recalibrates our world-class higher education system to ensure closer linkages and partnerships with industry, creating new jobs, lifting productivity and driving economic growth.

Therefore, I commend this bill to the House.

Debate adjourned.