Testing time on R&D

WA companies trail eastern states counterparts in research and development,a new study commissioned by the Department of Industry and Technology has found.

The gap between state and national business investment has blown out during the past decade, with business R&D spending in 1998-99 representing just 0.39 per cent of gross State product compared with the national average of 0.68 per cent.

According to the report¹s author, Murray Meaton, director of Economics

Consulting Services, WA businesses would have had to spend an additional $200 million during the year, for a total of $442 million, to be on par with the national average. The report shows WA businesses spent an equivalent of $130 per head of population in 1998-99. This was the lowest per capita business investment during the 1990s and is well short of its peak of $181 per head in 1996-97, when Hamersley Iron established the HIsmelt steel process and pilot plant in Kwinana. Since then, Hamersley Iron has closed its laboratories in Belmont. Mr Meaton said the difference in spending between WA and the rest of the nation resulted from the different economic profile, with WA highly dependent on the resource sector while the rest of the nation has a greater manufacturing base.

A report by the Australian Bureau of Statistics released this week shows that R&D expenditure by the mining industry fell 43 per cent in 1999-2000. WA accounted for $100 million, or 37 per cent, of mining R&D. Total State R&D including Government and University spending accounted for only 1 per cent of GSP in 1998-99. In comparison, national expenditure represented 1.5 per cent of Federal GDP.

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