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

Lots of fruit, little juice

For Australia the eighth edition of the Global Innovation Index has a new message that remains the old: lots of effort, little to show for it.

At first glance, Australia's innovation system is improving:

While the Global Innovation Index 2015, released in September, ranked Australia's overall 17th against 141 analysed nations, the same as in 2014, there was a significant jump in the ranking of its innovation system efficiency, from 81st place in 2014 to 72nd place in 2015.

The problem is, though, that such direct comparisons of innovative capacity make only sense when the economic context is similar.

And when this is considered the gloss loses some of its shine rather quickly... read full story

Losing sight of average...

...and never mind the leaders.

As Australia's mining fortunes wane, the gap between the R&D intensity of Australia and competitor countries is again widening.

4 September - According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, Australia's gross expenditure on R&D (GERD) increased by 6% in the two years to 2013-14. But its R&D intensity, measured as GERD relative to gross domestic product (GDP), decreased to 2.12%.

Meanwhile, leading OECD countries intensify their spending on R&D, with the average GERD to GDP ratio across the OECD climbing to 3.36% in 2013.

Behind Australia's downward trend is a steady decline in the R&D performance of its businesses, which since 2008-09 have wound back investments in R&D as a proportion of the full story

Blue dreaming

A blue economy is the vision of a new decadal national marine strategy

12 August - Two years ago the Australian Government's Oceans Policy Science Advisory Group led by Professor John Gunn published a position paper Marine Nation 2025: Marine Science to Support Australia's Blue Economy.

Its major recommendation was to develop a ten year plan for improving our marine science capabilities and to develop the 'blue economy' potential of our marine estate.

A National Marine Science Advisory Committee, chaired by Professor Gunn, was formed and with input from 500 scientists and stakeholders the group of experts developed the now released marine science strategy for the period the full story

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

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

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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Australian R&D Review

Dear Reader,

While the ARDR is still in the process of transitioning from its previous magazine-style format to a web-style publication, some content is now available. We hope it is of interest although we don't yet have the scope of our previous ARDR magazine.

Recent stories across all fields of the Australian R&D landscape are displayed on our homepage and in future we will also have pages that cover special areas of R&D.

The stories on our story pages can be read scrolling to the right (on mobile devices use your finger). All stories with short descriptions can also be found in the contentlist (right hand corner of our homepage).

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If you are interested in our previous website and back issues of ARDR magazines, you can find them here.

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The ARDR expressly disclaims any and all warranties and liability in connection with the information published in the ARDR and your use of such information.

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External contribution:

  • image Government funding: Are you missing out?

    Lior Stein, director at Rimon Advisory explains how government grants could support your more
  • R&D news ticker:

    What's on?
    image$100 million Large-scale solar photovoltaics grant round open

    The Australian Renewable Energy Agency has opened its Large-scale solar photovoltaics competitive grant round as part of its Advancing Renewables Programme. Selected projects will be supported with up to $30 million. Complementary to this, the Clean Energy Finance Corporation announced a $250 million large-scale solar financing programme. For more information click here

    imageWA Crop Protection Forum

    The Australian Herbicide Resistance Initiative (AHRI), the University of Western Australia (UWA) and the Curtin University Centre for Crop & Disease Management will co-host a Crop Protection Forum at UWA on 23 November 2015. For more information click here

    Find below a list of all stories published on this site.

    Blue dreaming

    12 August - Two years ago the Australian Government's Oceans Policy Science Advisory Group led by Professor John Gunn published a position paper Marine Nation 2025: Marine Science to Support Australia's Blue Economy (
    covered in our previous story Marine Prospects

    Its major recommendation was to develop a ten year plan for improving our marine science capabilities and to develop the 'blue economy' potential of our marine estate.

    A National Marine Science Advisory Committee, chaired by Professor Gunn, was formed and with input from 500 scientists and stakeholders the group of experts developed the now released marine science strategy for the period 2015-2025.

    Blue economy:
    In the marine context the concept describes a framework of sustainable development based on a balanced management of ocean assets for economic, environmental, social and cultural benefits.
    According to a United Nations concept paper, it breaks with the mould of the 'business as usual' brown development model of free resource extraction and waste dumping, through which costs are externalised from economic calculations.

    A call for increased investments in national research infrastructure and currently under-resourced high-priority science programs underpin the plan.

    But the report also highlights that there is a need for more collaboration between scientists, industry , government and the public, which entails an effort to better communicate the importance of marine science to the broader community.

    With 13.6 million square kilometres spanning across three oceans we do have the third largest marine estate in the world, but while this brings great opportunities, the committee highlights that the sector is also facing major challenges.

    Thus, the plan envisions that Australia's marine science will drive the development of new technologies and product innovations, while it will also provide the evidence base necessary to:

    • maintain marine sovereignty and security;
    • achieve energy security;
    • ensure food security;
    • conserve our biodiversity and ecosystem health;
    • create sustainable urban coastal development;
    • understand and adapt to climate variability and change; and
    • develop equitable and balanced resource allocation.

    Reaping the economic benefits from our marine assets while addressing these seven core challenges will be a balancing act, exemplified by the proposed development of Australia's tropical north: here the exploit of major resource potential needs to be weight against the protection of major existing cultural and environmental assets.

    To achieve this, the committee put forward the concept of a 'blue economy'. However, the concept is complex (see insert) and its development will require that we narrow the still large existing knowledge gaps, with more than 75% of our marine estate yet to be explored.

    Marine science for a blue economy; click image to enlarge

    Similar difficulties arise in defining what constitutes our 'marine industry' and, consequently, in measuring its worth.

    For example, around the world multinationals are lining up to exploit the rich genetic resource they contain (see also our 2011 dossier 'Ocean Views'). Internationally, such bio-prospecting of marine species is a major area of growth, but it is just one of a number of emerging industries, which also include seabed mining and the harvesting of wave and tidal power (for example the Perth Wave Energy Project, the first Australian project feeding power into the grid).

    The 2014 AIMS Index of Marine Industry estimates that the industry's contribution to the economy was around $47 billion in 2011-12. But given the above mentioned limitations, the report makes the point that this estimate may be significantly below the industry's true value. This also as it largely ignores the value of ecosystems services, which the Centre for Policy Development has estimated to be worth in the order of around $25 billion per year.

    Australia's marine estate; click image to enlarge

    That aside, the 2013 OPSAG report projected further strong growth of Australia's marine economy - possibly three times faster than Australia's gross domestic product over the next decade - and that its value will more than double to around $100 billion per year by 2025

    The strategy paper's list of identified growth areas includes:

    • the expansion of ocean renewable energy resources (wind, wave, tide);
    • growth in the field of marine biotechnology including for the biofuels, bioremediation and bioproducts;
    • the discovery and development of new offshore geological basins for oil and gas, and for CO2 storage;
    • increases in the market value of fisheries through sustainable harvesting practices;
    • a doubling of aquaculture with the development of new sectors;
    • the sustainable development of northern Australia; and
    • a sustainbable growth of the marine tourism industry.

    The experts argue that to this end investments in marine science need to significantly increase from its current $450 million per year, which represents less than 1% of the industry's current estimated value.

    However, these increased investments in marine R&D need to come from a broad base of sources, including government, industry and the community, and should support priority initiatives including:

    • a National Blue Economy Innovation Fund;
    • national marine research infrastructure;
    • a National Integrated Marine Experimental Facility;
    • a National Ocean Modelling Program; and
    • a Marine Science Capability Development Fund.

    The committee calls for an explicit shift in focus away from 'business as usual' marine science towards a system supporting a 'blue economy' development (see insert listing the eight recommendations).

    They also propose the establishment of a National Marine Baselines and Long-term Monitoring Program, which is to develop a comprehensive assessment of Australia's marine estate.

    Further recommended is a dedicated and coordinated marine science program and the expansion of the Integrated Marine Observing System (IMOS), which is supporting critical climate change and coastal systems research.

    Finally, the experts want the government to fund the full use of the national research vessel RV Investigator for 300 days a year instead of just 180 days at present.

    Australia's national research vessel, RV Investigator.
    The committee's eight recommendations include:
    • Create an explicit focus on a sustainable blue economy throughout the marine science system.
    • Establish and support a National Marine Baselines and Long-term Monitoring Program to develop a comprehensive assessment of our estate, and to help manage Commonwealth and State Marine Reserve networks.

    • Facilitate coordinated national studies on marine ecosystem processes and resilience to enable understanding of the impacts of development (urban, industrial and agricultural) and climate change on our marine estate.

    • Create a National Oceanographic Modelling System to supply defence, industry and government with accurate, detailed knowledge and predictions of ocean state.

    • Develop a dedicated and coordinated science program to support decision-making by policymakers and marine industry.

    • Sustain and expand the Integrated Marine Observing System to support critical climate change and coastal systems research, including coverage of key estuarine systems.

    • Develop marine science research training that is more quantitative, cross-disciplinary and congruent with industry and government needs.

    • Fund national research vessels for full use.
    More information:; a PDF of the strategy can be obtained here
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