Australian businesses and universities continue to march to the beat of different drums when it comes to research, says a Queensland University of Technology academic.
Professor Arun Sharma, deputy vice chancellor (research and commercialisation) at QUT, says that it appears almost as if university research has evolved independently of the innovation that the economy needs.
While he says that universities and businesses don’t have to be fully aligned in their research priorities, Professor Sharma notes that the disparity in Australia is serious.
A report by Universities Australia released late last year (see table below), showed that the higher education sector was spending the largest slice of research money (29 per cent) on medical and health sciences.
However the business sector was directing its research dollars chiefly to engineering (47 per cent), followed by information and computing sciences (30 per cent).
“This could be indicative of a mismatch in Australia’s research effort but more probably reflects the differing roles of universities and business,” the report said.
Professor Sharma has played a leading role in developing Australian research in information and communication technology. He co-founded the centre of excellence National ICT Australia Limited, as well as sitting on various roundtables, including the Queensland Premier’s State Smart Council from 2005-11.
He says some of the disparity in Australia can be explained by the fact that university research is often funded by external research income, which dictates what is researched.
A large part of this funding comes from competitive peer-reviewed grants, which he says are an essential component of any innovation system – but more often consider the needs of the university research workforce rather than the business sector.