“Innovation led growth is needed to underpin the transition of the Australian economy past the mining boom to a more diversified economy.” Catherine Livingstone, AO
The Bionics Institute Annual Public Lecture was held on the 20th April with Catherine Livingstone AO delivering the keynote address “Entrepreneurs, business and research: can we get the right mix to drive innovation in Australia?” Catherine gave an excellent overview of the medical research translation challenge we face in Australia.
The two hundred seat auditorium at the Melbourne Museum was sold out for the event, which brought together many great minds across Melbourne, from academia and research to business leaders and entrepreneurs.
Government expenditure on science, research and innovation averages $9.4 billion per annum in Australia. Astonishingly, less than two percent is spent on supporting the commercialisation of our research outcomes.
Australia is ranked very highly internationally in terms of academic research performance. However, it ranks very poorly in terms of taking this research to the marketplace – in fact we are well below the OECD average.
The challenge for medical research is often getting the results out of the laboratory and into the hands of physicians for use with their patients.
Currently, there seems to be limited incentives for research translation available to fundamental scientists. There is little time or money, and there is limited recognition of past translational activities in grant applications and processes. A researcher’s focus is on activities that provide grant funding that will continue their current research.
In addition, there is a poor connection between industry and academia. Industry finds it difficult to collaborate with academia often expressing that it is harder than it should be. There is also only a very small pool of companies that are prepared to engage in collaborations, and certainly very few of them are Australian companies.
“Australia has one of the lowest rates in the OECD of PhDs and post-docs working in business, or at least with some business work experience. The National Innovation and Science Agenda, with its recent recommendation for industry experience for PhDs and post-docs, may be the start of addressing the root cause of the collaboration conundrum,” Catherine noted.
She suggested that people need to understand and even spend time in the various sectors – research, government and business – in order to gain experience in driving innovation and commercialisation.