Australian R&D Review
Australian R&D Review
Linking Australian Science, Technology & Business

The ARDR is published by ELWIN MEDIA
(proprietor/editor Dr Gerd Winter)
The ARDR provides you with an overview of what is happening in the Australian innovation system, across science, technology and industry. This includes science stories, technology development and science policy. Below is a selection of recently uploaded stories. For more stories across sectors please visit our main story page, or choose a sector of your interest under 'sections'.

Food on the white board

The Government has released its Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper

4 July 2015 - A number of factors can be attributed to Australia's ongoing success in agriculture, including past policy reforms that made decision-making in the sector more reponsive to market forces.

But, as pointed out in a 2014 ABARES research paper, these have largely run their course.

"Instead, future opportunities for government to promote agricultural productivity growth may come from reducing regulatory burdens, improving the efficiency of the rural research, development and extension system, and building human capital through improving labour availability and skills."

Many of these issues find attention in the now released Agricultural Competitiveness White the full story

Northern delightenment

The White Paper on developing northern Australia has been released

18 June 2015 - In June last year, the Australian Government's Green Paper on Developing Northern Australia laid out a case to renew the effort towards developing northern Australia (covered in our previous story Northern Dreaming).

The release of the White Paper, which has the aspiring title Our North, Our Future, is the next step towards making good on a core election promise.

The diverse package of initiatives outlined in the policy paper are to trigger the accelerated economic expansion of a region that spans three million square kilometres north of the Tropic of Capricorn across Western Australia, the Northern Territory and full story

Great hit or big miss?

In June, Environment Minister Greg Hunt gave an example of how to make a pig look like a fashion model. "Certainty and growth for renewable energy" it said in the heading of a media statement in which he announced that the Australian Government's changes to the renewable energy target (RET) had passed the Senate.

Given that for more than a year the Australian renewables industry had to operate in an environment where nothing was certain and growth all but stalled, the outcome can indeed be interpreted as a period of calm after a war. The pig is not dead, but it surely is not looking Miss World full story

Innovative states

In June, the New South Wales' and South Australian budgets were brought down under very different economic full story

Earlier in the year, the need to save money restricted spending on innovation relevant initiatives in the Victorian, Tasmanian and Western Australian budgets full story

Cooperative review

May 2015 - The review of the Cooperative Research Centre Program by David Miles, which was commissioned by the Australian Government in 2014, has found the program is valuable and effective, although there is room for improvement.

The government has accepted all of its 18 recommendations, which means the program will continue despite the renewed funding cuts detailed in the 2015-16 budget (another $26 million over the next four years).

The government has already put in place a new CRC Advisory Group, as was recommended by Mr Miles, and it will strengthen the commercial focus of the full story

Innovation highways

image 14 May 2015 - The Australian Government won praise from the research community for its decision to keep the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS) going for another two years, with $300 million allocated in the May budget. However, the funding is only meant to bridge the time until the government's review of research infrastructure is finalised, and a long term funding strategy is developed.

In 2015-16, NCRIS will provide $136.9 million for 27 facilities supporting a wide range of nationally significant research outcomes. These include new cancer testing methods, advances in quantum computing, a better understanding of the oceans, weather and climate, as well as improved crop productivity and more detailed environmental full story

Party on a budget

The $5.5 billion Growing Jobs and Small Business initiative may indeed be the most exciting bit in this year's 'dull' 2015-16 federal budget.

The pharmaceutical industries will also be happy about $1.3 billion towards the listing of new medicines and vaccines on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. Large savings affecting the scheme - up to $5 billion over four years were predicted by some in the media - did not eventuate.

There was a small boost for the environment, with an additional $174 million provided for the Government's 'Green Army' initiative. Previously announced were an additional $100 million for the Reef Trust, which was established last year to oversee investments into projects that benefit the Great Barrier Reef (see 'Our beef with the reef').

And the Government gave medical researchers also something to look forward to with the first distributions from the Medical Research Future Fund - $10 million in 2015-16. However, this would require the legislation to be passed, which at present seems highly unlikely. Still, the MRF could potentially deliver around $400 million over four years in addition to NHMRC research full story

Energetically productive

April 2015 - The release of the Australian Government's Energy White Paper drew mixed responses. Thus various political and academic quarters criticised a failure to properly address climate change, with some commentators pointing out that climate change was scarcely mentioned in the document.

Compared to the previous 2012 Energy White Paper, which had a stronger emphasis on renewable energy development, the focus has indeed shifted towards consumer needs. Thus, the overarching vision for the Australian energy sector is now to provide competitively priced and reliable energy to households, businesses and international full story

X-factor continued

In March, the Australian Government announced the third major installment of the 2014 NHMRC health and medical research grants. It included $98.3 million for 11 program grants, the agency's largest grants supporting long term broad, multi-disciplinary and collaborative research in some of the most complex areas of health and medical research.

The chance of winning NHMRC support has traditionally been low, but it is now getting even tougher for Australian health and medical researchers. The overall success rate for application based grants dropped from 22% in 2013 to 18% in 2014. Accordingly, the success rate for NHMRC Project Grants, which account for the bulk of the agency's funding, also significantly dropped, from 16.9% in 2013 down to 15.0% in full story

Our beef with the reef

image In March, the Australian and Queensland Governments jointly released a 35 year plan for the long-term sustainability of the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) World Heritage Area (see also our previous story "Reefing up").

As part of the Reef 2050 Long Term Sustainability Plan (Reef Plan), the governments announced new funding commitments targeting the reef's health, including an additional $100 million from the Australian Government for the Reef Trust initiative.

Established in 2014 with $40 million, the Reef Trust will consolidate investments in projects that aim to improve the reef's health. Its funding priorities will be directed by an independent scientific panel chaired by Australia's chief scientist Professor Ian Chubb. full story

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