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Monday, 26 October 2009
Page: 6979

Senator CAROL BROWN (2:15 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, Senator Carr. Can the minister inform the Senate about the research projects to be funded by the Australian Research Council, the ARC, beginning in 2010? How many projects will be funded and what is the total value of the funding? What is the breakdown by ARC scheme and what is the particular focus of the schemes involved? How are the projects chosen, and what are the selection criteria? What problems will the research address and what specific benefits is it expected to deliver for Australian families, communities and industries?

Senator CARR (Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research) —I thank Senator Carol Brown for that question. This morning I had the pleasure of announcing the latest round of projects to be funded under the Australian Research Council’s National Competitive Grants Program. One thousand, one hundred and forty-five outstanding projects will receive funding totalling $394 million. This breaks down into $325.5 million for 925 fundamental research projects under the Discovery Projects scheme, $66.8 million for 211 cross-sectoral research collaborations under the Linkage Projects scheme and $1.8 million to support the work of nine Indigenous scholars under the Discovery Indigenous Researchers Development scheme.

Competition for this funding has been fierce. The successful projects have been tested in the crucible of peer review and have been judged to be the very best. Each addresses a significant challenge in an innovative way. Each will yield new knowledge to the world and lasting benefits to the nation. Many of the projects to begin next year will address the biggest challenge of our time—namely, that of climate change. Others will focus on improving life at work, improving the way Australians learn, making communities safer, improving our environment, improving our health and closing the gap in knowledge and understanding between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. Hundreds of the projects that we have announced today will improve the performance of today’s industries and lead to the development of new technologies that will underpin the industries of tomorrow. These are great projects and a great part of the Australian tradition of invention and discovery. I trust the opposition supports them.

Senator CAROL BROWN —Mr President, my first supplementary question to the minister is: can the minister inform the Senate how the funding announced today under the Australian Research Council’s National Competitive Grants Program will promote Australian research in the humanities, arts and social sciences, bearing in mind that the Council for the Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences is staging its annual HASS on the Hill event in and around Parliament House this week? What kinds of HASS research are being supported? Has the overall level of support for these disciplines increased? If so, by how much? What are the success rates for applications in these disciplines, and why is the research so important?

Senator CARR (Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research) —The Australian Research Council is supporting a host of projects in the humanities, arts and social sciences—from a study of the emotional responses to music that improve music teaching methods to a study of how we can improve the wellbeing of emergency service workers. Compared to the same Discovery Projects round last year, funding for the humanities and the creative arts has increased by 10 per cent and funding for the social sciences and the behavioural and economic sciences has increased by 17 per cent. Success rates have also risen from 19.5 per cent to 24.9 per cent for the humanities and from 21.7 per cent to 22 per cent for the social sciences. The humanities, arts and social sciences have a critical part to play in solving the great challenges we face as a nation as well as enriching the lives of all Australians.

Senator CAROL BROWN —Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Can the minister explain to the Senate what action the government is taking to ensure that the economic benefits of research funded by the Australian Research Council and other research undertaken in Australia flow through to the Australian community? What progress has been made on implementation of the Commercialisation Australia initiative announced in the 2009-10 budget as part of the government’s Powering Ideas innovation agenda? What specific forms of support will Commercialisation Australia provide, how widely did the government consult on the design of this support, and what will it achieve?

Senator CARR (Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research) —It is essential that we turn more great Australian ideas into jobs. Commercialisation Australia will take a radically new approach to bringing local ideas to global markets. Starting in early 2010, it will accelerate the translation of research results into moneymaking goods and services by leveraging private sector capital and expertise. It will give innovators access to case managers, specialist advice and services to build skills, knowledge and connections and grants of up to $250,000 for proof-of-concept activities. It will also provide repayable funding of up to $2 million for early stage commercialisation activities.

The support to be provided by Commercialisation Australia was decided in consultation with more than 250 stakeholders across sectors and across the country. It will ensure the economic benefits of Australian— (Time expired)