WA Science Council recommends research and development shake-up

Monday, 18 February, 2002

Geoff Gallop, Western Australia Premier, has received the first report from his Science Council.

The Premier, who is keen to see Western Australia at the forefront of the new economy, commissioned the report on research across state government agencies.

Currently, more than 30 state government agencies are spending about $90million a year on research and development. In Western Australia as a whole, over $700million is being spent, primarily by the private sector.

Amongst the findings of the report were the need for better communication and co-ordination between agencies and improved evaluation of research and development outcomes.

The report also found that the state government's own contribution to research by its departments and agencies had fallen by 7% throughout the 1990s. There was an increasing reliance on commonwealth funding, which was limiting the ability of agencies to set priorities based on local needs.

Key recommendations from the report include:

  • Establishing a government agency research forum, reporting to the Premier;
  • Establishing an evaluation framework for state government research;
  • Designating a senior public servant in each agency with responsibility and authority for research strategy;
  • Expanding research partnerships with the private sector, academe and the commonwealth;
  • Improving career progression for scientists in the public sector;
  • Establishing a culture of career interchange between government, universities and industry;
  • Continue to encouragement of the commercialisation of intellectual property generated by state government agencies research; and
  • Quarantining funding for medical and health research within teaching hospitals and establish a mechanism to measure the outcomes of this research.

Dr Gallop said the health of research and development was crucial to the economic future of the state. "Turning ideas and knowledge into products and services will enhance Western Australia's long-term economic competitiveness," he said.

We must invest in scientific excellence and innovation if we are to increase opportunities in the modern economy. The recommendations in this report will help make Western Australia a global leader in innovation-related activities, stimulating business and education establishments to work together to generate and commercialise ideas.

"For our state to be competitive, we must improve the research infrastructure, support private sector investment in research and development and promote science education in our schools and higher learning institutions."

The state government will consider the report and respond shortly.

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