R&D, blue-sky research imperative to post-COVID recovery: CQU expert

16 March 2021

CQUniversity intellectual property law expert and researcher Dr Amanda-Jane George says the government must not lose sight of blue sky research' or collaborative R&D' in light of a proposed new post-COVID innovation policy framework.

The debate on government funding for 'pure' versus 'applied' research has reignited in the higher education sector' which is already reeling from the effects of COVID-19.

"Alan Tudge announced that academics must become 'entrepreneurs'' working with business to commercialise their research'" Dr George explains.

"Universities Australia acknowledged this' but also advocated for blue sky or pure basic research' where innovators can 'think big' without the constraints of a commercial agenda.

"This debate has been going on for years' but now there's a new voice in innovation policy'" Dr George points out.

"A report by Industry' Innovation and Science Australia (IISA) recommends the government's near-term policy focus should be on non-R&D innovation. This is simple' incremental innovation' like changing delivery methods' or shifting online. It's this kind of innovation that is crucially important to many 'mum and dad' companies trying to adapt and survive in this tough economic environment."

Dr George says early ABS data shows that during the early part of 2020' 38 percent of businesses responded to COVID by engaging in non-R&D innovation.

"IISA suggests five years of progress was made in digital adoption in just eight weeks. So' it makes sense to support this kind of innovation. Historically' we've been pretty good at it' compared with our track record in collaborative R&D'" she says.

"Despite years of trying' innovation policy has yet to really boost Australia's level of R&D' although our new study shows there is some stakeholder optimism on the issue."

Dr Gerge says the government has yet to formally respond to IISA.

"The timing does seem right for a shift in policy focus' but a sustained commitment to both blue sky and collaborative R&D is equally important'" she says.

"The development of the COVID vaccine is a prime example of the need for this kind of research."