Chamber report to end Aussie "brain drain"

How to better connect research and business is the central plank of a Sydney Business Chamber report launched today at Parramatta's Novotel Hotel.

Patricia Forsythe of the executive director of the Sydney Business Chamber. Picture: Nic Walker.

Patricia Forsythe of the executive director of the Sydney Business Chamber. Picture: Nic Walker.

The Industry-Research Collaboration report, co-authored by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), provides practical recommendations to arrest Australia's declining rate of productivity growth by better harnessing Australia's considerable research expertise, and the $30 billion spend on R&D annually.

Australia places last in the OECD in terms of business and university research collaboration and, according to the 2013 Global Innovation Index, 32nd in terms of converting research into innovation and commercial outcomes. That's just not good enough, and questions have to be asked as to why this is the case. - Patricia Forsythe, executive director of the Sydney Business Chamber.

The NSW Chief Scientist and Engineer Professor Mary O'Kane joined president and CEO of GE Healthcare Mr Michael Ackland, the deputy vice chancellor of the University of Western Sydney, Professor Scott Holmes, and PwC's Manoj Santiago, along with 100 leaders from industry, academia and the government sector for the launch.

The Thinking Business: Industry-Research Collaboration Report identifies measures to overcome systemic and cultural barriers that have inhibited Australian research reaching commercial success to help Australian industries better compete in the global market.

“Australia punches well above its weight when it comes to the production of research. In fields such as medical research and agriculture, the world comes to us for ideas and solutions,” said Patricia Forsythe of the Sydney Business Chamber.

“Despite this obvious advantage, we fail to convert this expertise into commercial outcomes.”

“Australia places last in the OECD in terms of business and university research collaboration and, according to the 2013 Global Innovation Index, 32nd in terms of converting research into innovation and commercial outcomes. That's just not good enough, and questions have to be asked as to why this is the case.”

“When you look overseas, collaborative R&D has been the engine for economic growth. In the US collaborative R&D has been the foundation for trillions of dollars in wealth creation and responsible for the establishment of global brands such as Google and Hewlett-Packard.”

“We need to stop Australia‟s brain drain, where our researchers with the know-how feel obliged to go overseas to commercialise.”

“The Sydney Business Chamber has undertaken this important piece of work in recognition of the absolute importance of effective collaboration between academia and the business community and especially collaboration initiated by businesspeople,” Mrs Forsythe said.

"There is a desire by businesses and researchers to engage in substantial collaboration, yet this desire has not translated into action,” said Alister Berkeley, principal at PwC.

“Only a clear vision with a feasible roadmap and commitment from all stakeholders will ensure success. This is why we consulted with more than 100 stakeholders to develop practical recommendations that can help drive the momentum required to change embedded behaviours."

Michael Ackland, CEO and president of GE Healthcare A&NZ said his company has always understood the importance of technological innovation and research.

“Recently, we‟ve taken steps to develop strong partnerships with Research Institutions such as South Australian Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI) that aim to help address current and future healthcare challenges. 

“Australia‟s credentials in the research space are well known, the challenge and opportunity is closing the gap to ensure we can collaborate on projects that have mutually beneficial outcomes,” he said.

This report is part of a longer term action project led by the Sydney Business Chamber to recommend and take practical action to accelerate productivity growth by encouraging more businesses to more often look to researchers to help add value to products and services. It is part of NSW Business Chamber‟s Thinking Business Program. 

The full Report can be found at http://www.nswbusinesschamber.com.au/Lobbying/Thinking-Business

Recommendations include:

 Linking funding for research organisations and individual researchers to the demonstration of social and commercial outcomes;

 The creation and facilitation of a „marketplace‟ for research expertise;

 Getting researchers „business ready‟ and businesses „research ready‟;

 A simplified approach to intellectual property transfer for short term collaboration;

 „Good Practice forums‟ for university corporate engagement and collaboration; and

 Increasing meaningful engagement between industry and universities.

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