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Keynote address to open the Cooperative Research Centres Association Conference, Canberra



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Keynote address to open the Cooperative Research Centres Association conference 26 May 2015 Parliament House Canberra [Check against delivery] Good morning, thank you for inviting me to open your annual conference.

I have great pleasure in welcoming you all to Parliament House and in joining you to celebrate 25 years of achievements by Cooperative Research Centres.

Your annual conference is a highlight of the schedule of events for the research community and it’s a great forum for networking and sharing knowledge.

I’m delighted that my department continues its long-standing support of the CRC Association by sponsoring the CRCA Conference - Excellence in Innovation Awards Dinner.

I look forward to joining you at that event this evening.

With last night’s Ralph Slatyer Address on Science and Society delivered by Dr Megan Clark AC at the Australian War Memorial and this afternoon’s CRC Showcase and Excellence in Innovation Awards Dinner, we’re celebrating appropriately.

And there is much to celebrate.

CRCs have a proud history and have enjoyed notable successes over the years.

They’re highly regarded both here in Australia and internationally.

And with a four billion dollar Government investment in 209 CRCs since the programme began in 1991, there has been significant progress at the forefront of developing new technologies, products and services.

CRCs and R&D

In Australia CRCs have proven to be of great benefit to R&D and have delivered significant economic, environmental and social outcomes.

CRCs have effectively brought together industry partners, Government, and the community with world class Australian and international researchers to create new opportunities and develop solutions to assist Australian industries.

Some recent highlights include research that has reduced the impact of invasive species like rabbits, work on making cell therapy more accessible and affordable and building a more resilient and profitable dairy industry.

Notable returns on industry investments include Boeing’s initial $17 million investment in the CRC for Advanced Composite Structures.

This has paid off in spades in terms of jobs and Australia’s largest aerospace contract, worth $4 billion over 20 years.

It has created 1300 jobs turning out moveable trailing edges for the 787 Dreamliner at Boeing’s sole source manufacturing facility in Melbourne.

For those of you also attending the CRC Showcase you will be able to see many more examples of CRC achievements.

Committed to CRCs I can assure you that the Australian Government remains committed to CRCs, just as we are committed to ensuring science takes its role at the heart of the Australian economy where it can have a direct impact on creating our economic opportunities and jobs of the future.

We’re also committed to continuous improvement.

In light of changing times and Australia’s economic circumstances, we commissioned David Miles AM to review the CRC programme.

Once again, I want to compliment David Miles for his close and thorough attention to the task.

I also want to thank the 251 people and organisations that lodged submissions.

Mr Miles presented us with 18 thoughtful and perceptive recommendations and last week I announced that the Government had agreed with all of them.

They mean that the CRC programme will continue but with a more industry targeted focus.

It’s appropriate that, more than ever before, we ensure that we get the top value for every dollar that we invest in research.

In response to the review, we have accepted the need for change that ensures greater collaboration between industry and science.

Industry and science must work in sync.

It’s a theme I have been stressing as the Minister for both Industry and Science, and I know it’s an objective that researchers share.

We have been implementing this theme since we launched the Industry Innovation and Competitiveness Agenda last October.

The agenda articulates the Government’s desire to better translate research into commercial outcomes.

By working together, industry and science will identify and respond to challenges.

They also work together to identify and capitalise on new opportunities and make the new discoveries that will create the new products that will provide jobs for Australians.

Industry Growth Centres Our $188.5 million Industry Growth Centres initiative is a core element of the Agenda.

It’s pivotal to driving business-to-business and business-to-research collaboration.

Industry-research collaboration is crucial to transforming Australian industry in a global market.

Enhancing and leveraging the work of the Growth Centres through close collaboration with the CRC Programme is imperative to making a competitive and forward-looking economy.

CRCs can do this by sharing knowledge, experience and resources to achieve common goals.

One of the core activities of each Growth Centre will be setting the strategic vision for each of the five focus sectors.

This is because it will set out how each Growth Centre can position its sector to get ahead of the next ‘wave’.

Industry knowledge priorities Growth Centres will do this by developing industry knowledge priorities with reference to the research being done here in Australia and also overseas.

As well, industry knowledge priorities will align with the science and research priorities endorsed by the Commonwealth Science Council.

The industry knowledge priorities will therefore set out clear industry-generated messages to the research community about the research needs of each sector.

It presents a great opportunity for the CRC Programme, which can get involved in the innovative research for the Growth Centres.

Future CRCs in the identified sectors will work closely with the Growth Centres so their work contributes to competitiveness in each sector.

And existing CRCs will develop Memorandums of Understanding on how they will collaborate with Industry Growth Centres.

David Miles recommended a new CRC stream, CRC-Projects or CRC-Ps, which will work specifically on short-term industry-led work identified in the small and medium enterprise sector.

They’ll operate on shorter timelines and where possible they will be linked to the knowledge priority areas identified by the Growth Centres.

Strengthening the CRCs’ ability to bring researchers, industry and the community together in the five priority growth sectors will ensure that our research investment drives a competitive and forward-looking economy.

The current CRCs are ready-made sources of expertise, with huge potential to feed this into the Industry Growth Centres and earn them some quick wins.

Just as we have been actively reducing the burden of red tape and administrative process elsewhere in Government, we are similarly looking to streamline the CRC selection processes with a simplified and more industry-focused approach.

New advisory body The present CRC Committee has served the programme well.

I thank Neville Stevens and the committee for their outstanding efforts and advice, but along with the new objectives and activities, it is appropriate to overhaul selection and review processes.

Accordingly, a new CRC Advisory Committee will work with me and my Department to implement the recommendations of the review and oversee the revised CRC Programme.

It will be a well credentialed body, and led by distinguished business leader Philip Clark AM, working with Dr Megan Clark AC, Dr Michele Allan and Australia’s Chief Scientist, Professor Ian Chubb AC.

Before I move on, I want to touch on another related matter, the Boosting the Commercial Returns from Research strategy.

The strategy being prepared in consultation with my colleague, Education and Training Minister Christopher Pyne, is designed to help drive innovation in Australia, grow successful businesses and research capacity and boost productivity and exports.

It is part of the overarching Industry Innovation and Competitiveness Agenda I mentioned earlier, and shares the same aspiration, improving Australia’s economic performance through better translation of research into commercial outcomes.

It has involved extensive consultation with researchers and industry on a range of policy and programme changes which are also designed to improve greater collaboration between industry and researchers.

In my view, the current funding model puts the boot on the wrong foot by overwhelmingly rewarding researchers for producing highly cited publications ahead of collaboration with industry.

There’s no reason they can’t do both, but we want them developing highly cited collaborations as a priority.

Likewise, we acknowledge that collaboration goes two ways.

We need to give business incentives to engage with researchers.

One of the proposals floated in the recently launched Re:think Tax discussion paper is for the Government to consider tax incentives for innovation within the broader context of collaboration with public research institutions.

Secondly, we are working on an IP Toolkit which will help simplify discussions on IP between researchers and industry and give better access to publicly funded research.

We expect to finalise the toolkit in the middle of this year.

And third, the strategy will work to ensure that we turn out researchers with the skills to work effectively with industry and bring their work to market.

This reflects the sometimes plaintive response from industry that researchers need to be more industry-ready.

The CRC Programme has been a valuable training ground for industry-focused emerging researchers and entrepreneurs and we would like to see it continue doing this.

CRC announcement I’m very pleased to announce more than $74 million in funding for two CRCs - the CRC for Optimising Resource Extraction and the Innovative Manufacturing CRC.

I have approved $34.45 million in Commonwealth funding for the CRC for Optimising Resource Extraction.

This funding will extend the work of the CRC as it looks to developing an advanced manufacturing approach for mining.

The CRC will target operational inefficiencies, reduce energy use and enable technology that will lead to the economic recovery of lower grade ore deposits.

In turn, this will increase capacity and market opportunities for small and medium enterprises and help to diversify the benefits to Australia from our natural resources.

Similarly, I have approved funding of $40 million for the new Innovative Manufacturing CRC.

The Innovative Manufacturing CRC had its beginnings in a request from me to the Advanced Manufacturing CRC and the proponents Manufacturing Industry Innovation CRC to work together on a combined proposal for my consideration.

The combined proposal has certainly met my expectations.

The Innovative Manufacturing CRC will assist Australian manufacturers transition from traditional manufacturing to knowledge-intensive competitive industries in areas of global growth including additive manufacturing, lightweight robotics and medical devices.

More than 60 organisations involved in these two CRCS will also bring in over $70 million in cash and $200 million in in-kind contributions.

Participants include multi-nationals, SMEs and peak industry bodies.

Importantly, these CRCs will also work closely with the Mining Equipment, Technology and Services and Advanced Manufacturing Growth Centres.

They will develop industry-led programmes of research supporting Australia’s resources and advanced manufacturing sectors.

These collaborations will ensure an integrated and collaborative approach to address major challenges for Australia in key parts of the economy where Australia enjoys significant competitive advantages.

They will increase market opportunities for local businesses and overall productivity in these sectors.

Conclusion In closing, I want to acknowledge the very considerable contributions that have been made to Australia economically and socially throughout the 25 years that the CRC Programme has been operating.

It was a bold move back then, but displayed incredible foresight in establishing a programme that formalised Government-business-research partnerships built around innovation and research in areas of high need.

Along the way, the CRC Association was formed in 1994 and has shown itself to be a very determined advocacy body and to be very effective in helping CRCs share expertise and wisdom.

The association has benefited enormously over the intervening 21 years by the energetic chairing of the Hon Tony Staley who has been a staunch and wise leader.

And your CEO, Dr Tony Peacock has been a persistent and articulate advocate on your behalf.

Your conferences are always a great gathering of some of Australia’s top researchers and of some of our best entrepreneurs and this one is no exception.

The calibre of speakers is, as always, extremely high.

I know that my Parliamentary Secretary Karen Andrews is looking forward to this evening’s showcase of some of the latest of the very practical outcomes that our CRCs are delivering for Australians.

I therefore have great pleasure in wishing the CRC Association the very best for its coming of age, and in acknowledging a great quarter century of service to Australia and Australians by opening your conference here at Parliament House.

Media contact: Mr Macfarlane's Office 02 6277 7070