$26m just a start

WESTERN Australia’s R&D community has welcomed the State Government’s recent science and innovation funding allocation announcements, but says more money needs to be spent building new industries.

The Government recently announced $26 million to fund the creation of an agriculture institute, the result of the relocation or redevelopment of the Department of Agriculture, which will house existing research taking place at three WA universities.

The agriculture-focused allocation comes in addition to another $26 million from the Government’s InnovateWA program.

A Government spokesman says this is part of the $50 million commitment to InnovateWA over four years.

The $26 million in InnovateWA funding is targeted at the creation of major research facilities, new ‘centres of excellence’ and the provision of two Premier’s Research Fellowships.

While the recently announced focus on research and development for the agriculture industry is a positive one, it is an existing core strength, according to R&D industry representatives spoken to by WA Business News, who say the State Government should inject more money into building new industries.

Clinical Cell Culture chief executive officer Troels Jordansen said while money spent on boosting research and development was good, the Government needed to consider future opportunities.

“If they [the Government] wants to continue to be a resource State with relatively big machines, if they think that that is the future, by all means fund it; but there may be a better and brighter future in biotechnology,” he said.

Murdoch University division of research and development director Paul D’Sylva said that Government’s funding provided a much-needed collaborative approach.

“Australian universities do about 80 per cent of the research and development in the country and we are all in favour of consolidating efficiencies and capabilities and having an integrated approach,” he said.

“Agriculture is a great department to start with because it has a strong research capability already. Murdoch has a strong collaboration and many linkages with the department and to co-locate them is the next obvious step.”

However, Mr D’Sylva said greater investment in other industries would help build new areas of critical mass.

The announcement that the Government will spend $21 million of its InnovateWA funds to develop new major research facilities was a step in the right direction, but the sector required far better funding according to Mr D’Sylva.

“Big R&D is reliant on high-profile dedicated facilities and it is the area where universities need significant injection of funds so we can be competitive. We need more, though. This may be ongoing for the foreseeable future but it needs to keep coming,” he said.

pSivida managing director Gavin Rezos welcomed the recent funding announcements but said it was “one very small step”.

He encouraged the Government to focus its spending on areas of strength to help WA attract world-class scientists and investment.

University of Western Australia Office of Industry and Innovation director Andy Sierakowski said the Premier’s funding announcements would foster collaboration between universities and industry.

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