business leaders, unions, and Australia faces a ‘sliding door’ moment as decision makers flock to the Jobs and Skills Summit.
Either invest in science and seize the big economic opportunity, or get stuck on the platform when the next generation engine of new economic growth is pulled out of the station.
The world is now in the midst of a scientific and technological race. Our economic competitors are rapidly increasing their strategic investments in science, technology and research and development to secure their future.
In the United States, the recent CHIPS and Science Act will lead to $52 billion in spending on science and advanced semiconductor manufacturing. US President Joe Biden has called it a “once-in-a-generation investment in America itself.”
Australia should be bold in every way in our ambition.
Thinking big can create new jobs, national income, intellectual property and national capacity.
But if we don’t, Australia faces a significant risk of becoming a consumer of new technologies rather than a creator. We will become more dependent on other countries. And we are forced to embrace the scientific and technological breakthroughs that will sustain our society into the future.
So how can Australia see the ‘science-powered future’ outlined by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese in his Science Vision Statement?
Science & Technology Australia has proposed five policy amendments on science jobs and skills to help our country keep up with our economic competitors.
First, we need a new shared story about being a science and intelligence nation: Australia as a global tech superpower. A comprehensive national strategy is also needed to advance Australia’s science and technology ambitions.
We also need to train Australia’s first generation of bench-to-boardroom scientists. This is a group of scientist-entrepreneurs with the skills, networks and knowledge to be the country’s next commercial stars.
And we need to stop the “brain drain” that is driving so many talented researchers abroad. Currently, chronic job instability in scientific careers is to blame.
To retain more of the best research talent and attract Australia’s science and technology stars from abroad, the country’s research funding agencies need to move to long-term grants and fellowships of 5 to 10 years. And employers of scientists must match long-term funding with long-term employment certainty.
The last two amendments are what we’d like to see reflected in the October budget.
We hope the Budget confirms Labor’s election promise to legislate new investments in the commercialization of research.
Finally, we need to increase investment in new discovery research. This is the potential role of the government’s new National Recovery Fund.
Without a strong pipeline of future research breakthroughs, Australia will be vulnerable. We run the risk of becoming a nation of consumers, not creators. And the money we pay to buy new technology from other countries will get ahead of us in generating new technology ideas.
To secure breakthroughs in a science-powered economy, we can bring dividends to discovery by raising the grant budgets of the Australian Research Council and the National Health Research Council.
These five policy changes will be a once-in-a-generation investment in Australia itself to ensure we are in control of our own destiny.
Misha Schubert is Chief Executive Officer of Science & Technology Australia.
do you know more? Please contact James Riley by email.