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Call to increase funding for innovation -

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ELEANOR HALL: A six month review of one of Australia's iconic research programs has recommended
that the government increase funding for the 18-year old Co-operative Research Centres.

But while the review does recommend more money, it says the program is not as effective as it could
be.

Professor Mary O'Kane conducted the review and she spoke to our chief political correspondent,
Lyndal Curtis.

MARY O'KANE: Australia's quite famous for this program. It's been copied in general form in other
countries, Austria, Chile and so on. And we were asked to have a look, was this program really
working and delivering on the tax payers very considerable investment in it. And we found yes,
there had been a good return but there, it could be focused much more towards really helping end
users, be it public sector end users, be it the community end users or being industry end users to
really get sort of breakthrough research done.

LYNDAL CURTIS: And does it need to be refocused to help particularly industry get a better notion
of how to use the system and refocus to get industry more involved in the funding of the system as
well?

MARY O'KANE: Well industry I have to say has really kicked in well with this, just as the public
sector's kicked in. The Universities and CSIRO have put a lot into this program. But what we really
needed was a focus on the sorts of problems they do.

That they be well defined, hard problems that are causing until they're solved, our various
industries be they our service industries or some of our specialist industries with a lot of SMEs
in them. They can't move forward unless these problems are solved. So this is about cracking those
problems that cause the road blocks and by unleashing the research capacity here in Australia on to
those problems we can help our industries and our big public sector challenges really surge ahead.

LYNDAL CURTIS: What do you think is the best way to do that?

MARY O'KANE: Well I think it's very much about getting the right groups together. Part of it's
about the right end users. So if we take an industry example about how industry itself organises
its groups and you see wonderful organisations in the Agricultural industries through the rural
research corporations, like the Grains Research and Development Corporation and so on. Amira in the
mining industry.

But some other of the newer industries need to sort of get their act together as a group and then
they need to find the right researches who can deliver for them. So one of out suggestions, our
recommendations is of a new program that helps industries come together, helps the players and
industries come together and find those researchers and help to find their problem and work out how
they're going to take the results forward from the research into end user application.

LYNDAL CURTIS: And do you believe there should be a change to the funding of the Co-operative
Research Centres?

MARY O'KANE: Yes, we do recommend some core changes. One is that over 50 per cent of the funding
should come from the end users and most of that should be cash. Cash and very much untied in kind.
But where this lot of SME's it may be the in-kind issue that will be more important. But the other
big change is that we're saying the universities and the publicly funded research agencies have put
a lot of funding into this program. We're saying that shouldn't be mandatory but it should be
encouraged.

LYNDAL CURTIS: And you talk about in your report about social good and social benefit. Have those
notions not been as much a part of the program as you'd like them to be?

MARY O'KANE: The notion of public good CRC's have disappeared for the last couple of rounds and the
Rudd Government brought that back as an election promise and this review looked at it, as the
wisdom of it and strongly thinks it's very important and says that as well one's for the public
good in the sense of being about problems that governments typically solve, we were also interested
in public good of the sort communities are interested in.

Today we're seeing a lot of community interests and action in issues like the environment and in
social good issues and we think it's important that there be public good ones with a, the community
focus as well as with areas of traditional government action.

ELEANOR HALL: That was Professor Mary O'Kane who conducted a review of the research program
speaking to Lyndal Curtis in Canberra.