Friday, March 19, 2010

University engagement with industry

Greetings from the Australian National University were the College of Engineering & Computer Science is having an Industry Engagement Day. The idea is to working out how to apply the research done by universities and places like NICTA, to industry. I have some background in this having been involved in formal discipline bodies to change IT research and informa discussions leading to the the creation of NICTA. More recenelty I have helped teaching innovation a ANU.

The first speaker was Professor Mandy Thomas, PVC Research. She pointed out that the Australian Government released an innovation policy "Powering Ideas: an innovation agenda for the 21st century" (12 May 2009) and rearranged portfolios to place research with industry. ANU is looking at ways to link with industry. Support is provided to researchers to seek out industry partners for ARC Linkage Grants. Professor Thomas invited suggestions on how to improve this program.

My suggestion was be to provide training for researches on how to innovate. ANU's engineering students run an excellent Innvoation ACT program each year, to teach how to take an idea to business. This is now an ACT wide program involving other universities and all disciplines. The presentations are recorded and I suggested it would not be difficult to turn this into a formal course.As an e-learning course this could be avialible to all ANU postgraduate students, and students at partner unviersites worldwide.

From the Innovation Report:
... Australia’s recent innovation performance has been uneven, and we have failed to keep pace with the rest of the world. In the last eight years, Australia has slipped from fifth to eighteenth in the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Index. Our multi-factor productivity grew 1.4 per cent a year on average between 1982–83 and 1995–96. Growth has averaged only 0.9 per cent a year since then, which is no better than we achieved in the 1960s. Since 2003–04, our productivity has actually declined.

... The Australian Government has adopted seven National Innovation Priorities to focus the production, diffusion and application of new knowledge. All of these priorities are equally important. They address the country’s long-term weakness in business innovation, and in collaboration between researchers and industry. The National Innovation Priorities complement Australia’s National Research Priorities, which help focus public-sector research.

Priority 1: Public research funding supports high-quality research that addresses national challenges and opens up new opportunities.

Priority 2: Australia has a strong base of skilled researchers to support the national research effort in both the public and private sectors.

Priority 3: The innovation system fosters industries of the future, securing value from the commercialisation of Australian research and development.

Priority 4: More effective dissemination of new technologies, processes, and ideas increases innovation across the economy, with a particular focus on small and medium-sized enterprises.

Priority 5: The innovation system encourages a culture of collaboration within the research sector and between researchers and industry.

Priority 6: Australian researchers and businesses are involved in more international collaborations on research and development.

Priority 7: The public and community sectors work with others in the innovation system to improve policy development and service delivery.

... the Australian Government will ...


  • Progressively increase the number of research groups performing at world-class levels, as measured by international performance benchmarks.

  • Use mission-based funding compacts and other funding mechanisms to promote collaboration by encouraging universities to organise themselves into research hubs and spokes, and to pursue opportunities to undertake industry-driven research more vigorously.

  • Progressively address the gap in funding for indirect research costs — starting by augmenting the Research Infrastructure Block Grants Scheme with a new Sustainable Research Excellence in Universities Initiative.

  • Help smaller and regional universities develop their research capacity by teaming up with other institutions — supported by a new Collaborative Research Networks Scheme.

  • Increase the capacity of public research organisations, especially to tackle complex problems, participate in domestic and international collaborations, and undertake multidisciplinary research.

  • Continue to invest in research infrastructure to support collaboration and give Australian researchers access to the latest technology, guided by the Strategic Roadmap for Australian Research Infrastructure (2008) — building on $580 million for university research and teaching infrastructure in the first round of the Education Investment Fund, $321 million for research infrastructure in the second round, and $901 million for projects identified through the roadmap and funded under the Super Science Initiative; the third round of the Education Investment Fund will be conducted in 2009–10 to maintain the momentum.


  • Develop a research workforce strategy to address expected shortfalls in the supply of research-qualified people.

  • Increase the stipend for Australian Postgraduate Awards — with an increase of more than 10 per cent announced in the 2009–10 Budget, lifting the stipend to $22,500 in 2010.

  • Significantly increase the number of students completing higher degrees by research over the next decade — building on the Government’s ambition to lift the proportion of 25–34-year olds with a bachelor’s degree and its new incentives to get undergraduates studying maths and science (both of which will enlarge the pool of students qualified to undertake research degrees), as well as its action to double the number of Australian Postgraduate Awards in the 2008–09 Budget.

  • Create viable career paths for Australian researchers — building on the Government’s measures to support research trainees (more Australian Postgraduate Awards with higher stipends), early-career researchers (Super Science Fellowships), mid career researchers (Future Fellowships), and senior researchers (Australian Laureate Fellowships).


  • Introduce mission-based funding compacts that allow universities to determine their own research and collaboration agendas in line with national priorities.

  • Implement Excellence in Research for Australia to measure the quality of university research and guide the allocation of resources.

  • Require universities to provide more meaningful data on research costs through activity-based reporting, and to meet specific performance targets to be developed in consultation with the sector.

Business innovation

... the Australian Government will ...
  • Aim to increase the proportion of businesses engaging in innovation by 25 per cent over the next decade — building on initiatives including Enterprise Connect, Clean Business Australia, and the new $4.5 billion Clean Energy Initiative.

  • Aim to increase the number of businesses investing in R&D over time — fuelled by the introduction of a new R&D Tax Credit, which will double the tax incentive for small-business R&D (restoring it to pre-1996 levels), and lift the base tax incentive for R&D by larger firms.

  • Support innovative responses to climate change — including through Clean Business Australia, the Green Car Innovation Fund, the Clean Energy Initiative, the Global Carbon Capture and Storage Institute, and the Climate Change Action Fund.

  • Improve innovation skills and workplace capabilities, including management and leadership skills — building on Enterprise Connect and the Education Revolution.

  • Support the efforts of Australian firms to get their ideas to market — through initiatives including Climate Ready, the Green Car Innovation Fund, and the new Commonwealth Commercialisation Institute.

  • Work with the private sector to increase the supply of venture capital — building on the Government’s measures to maintain stability and liquidity in the Australian financial system during the global financial crisis, and on the new Innovation Investment Follow-on Fund.

  • Maintain a continuous dialogue with industry about how we can maximise business innovation — including through Enterprise Connect, Industry Innovation Councils, and working groups like that established for pharmaceuticals.

Public sector innovation

... the Australian Government will ...
  • Take advice from the Australian Public Service Management Advisory Committee and the Australian National Audit Office on how the public sector can implement the recommendations of the Review of the National Innovation System.

  • Use public procurement to drive research, innovation and technology development by Australian firms — building on the new Commonwealth Procurement Guidelines released in December 2008.

  • Take steps to develop a more coordinated approach to Commonwealth information management, innovation, and engagement involving the Australian Government Information Management Office and other federal agencies.

  • Consider options for reforming the Australian patent system to increase innovation, investment and trade; and supporting intellectual property education for researchers and business.

  • Improve the management and regulation of biotechnology and nanotechnology to maximise community confidence and community benefits from the use of new technology — starting with a new National Enabling Technologies Strategy.


... the Australian Government will ...
  • Aim to double the level of collaboration between Australian businesses, universities, and publicly-funded research agencies over the next decade — building on initiatives including mission-based funding compacts for universities, Enterprise Connect (including its Researchers in Business Program), Industry Innovation Councils, the new Joint Research Engagement Scheme, and the new Royal Institution of Australia.

  • Increase international collaboration in research by Australian universities — building on actions to open important Australian Research Council awards and fellowships to international applicants, and increase multilateral engagement (for example, in the Square Kilometre Array radio-telescope project).

  • Renew the Cooperative Research Centres Program along the lines proposed in Collaborating to a Purpose — building on the new program guidelines released in 2008, which reinstate public good as a funding criterion, encourage research in the humanities, arts and social sciences, and increase the program’s focus on the needs of end-users.

  • Improve Enterprise Connect’s services to individual firms, anticipating that Enterprise Connect will continue to develop and may include regional clusters and networks uniting businesses, researchers and educational institutions.

  • Promote proven models for linking public and not-for-profit researchers with industry and the wider Australian community — including the CSIRO’s National Research Flagships and the CSIRO ICT Centre.


... the Australia Government will ...
  • Strengthen the Prime Minister’s Science, Engineering and Innovation Council, especially its capacity to look over the horizon and identify emerging trends.

  • Use the Commonwealth, State and Territory Advisory Council on Innovation to improve intergovernmental coordination, starting with the design and delivery of business programs.

  • Give the interagency Coordination Committee for Science and Technology more responsibility and rename it the Coordination Committee on Innovation.

  • Increase the use of metrics, analysis, and evaluation to inform policy development and decision-making.

The future

By 2020, the Australian Government wants a national innovation system in which:

  • the Commonwealth clearly articulates national priorities and aspirations to make the best use of resources, drive change, and provide benchmarks against which to measure success;

  • universities and research organisations attract the best minds to conduct world-class research, fuelling the innovation system with new knowledge and ideas;

  • businesses of all sizes and in all sectors embrace innovation as the pathway to greater competitiveness, supported by government policies that minimise barriers and maximise opportunities for the commercialisation of new ideas and new technologies;

  • governments and community organisations consciously seek to improve policy development and service delivery through innovation; and

  • researchers, businesses and governments work collaboratively to secure value from commercial innovation and to address national and global challenges.

From: Executive Summary, Powering Ideas: an innovation agenda for the 21st century, 12 May 2009
Next speaker was Professor Chris Baker. He started by citing Stanford University's 2006 strategic plan, which while pointing out the unviersity's impressive role in creating new industries and educated captains of industry were working to improve firther. Professor Baker also used the example fo te Cambridge Computer Lab, where about one third of funding come from industry. The comparison with Cambridge is an interesting one. Some years ago on a visit to Cambridge, Sir Peter Swinnerton-Dyer, Chair of the University IT Committee recommended the report "The Cambridge Phenomenon". I found a copy of the report in the ANU library and made a brief study of it:

Segal Quince & Partners (Segal 1985) looked at four policy issues:

  • The role of small new technology based firms
  • Links between industry and higher educational and research institutions
  • The contributions and roles of the public and private sectors in stimulating technological change and economic development. What is the impact of the allocation of allocation of public research funds?
  • The spatial distribution of high technology industry. Will there be a trend away from established industrial and urban areas to attractive rural areas?

Lessons of History

  • There is a long history (100 years) of high technology companies in Cambridge, due to the University.
  • The University is dominant in the city of Cambridge and is strong in scientific fields.
  • The region was already growing before the latest hi-tech developments.
  • Planning which limited large industrialisation may have helped small hi-tech firms.
  • Problems of preservation v development remain.
... two kinds of company links:
  • People forming new start-ups from existing companies, the University, or research laboratories
  • Subsidiaries of existing companies in the area created, but operating essentially as independent companies
... ``nursery units' ... technology parks were:
  • The park was developed in response to demand, not to encourage it,
  • Private sector development was dominant,
  • The buildings were not especially high technology in design or facilities.

Definition of the Phenomenon

  • Large numbers of high technology companies around Cambridge for computer hardware, software scientific instruments, electronics and biotechnology
  • Young, small, independent and indigenous companies
  • Decades of high technology company start ups
  • Research, design and development activities or small volume high value production
  • Links between firms, the university and research organisations...
From: The Cambridge Phenomenon, Summary of The Report, From Net Traveller, Tom Worthington, 1999

Based on this I proposed "Building Arcadia: Emulating Cambridge's High Technology Success", some of which was incorporated in NICTA. Some of the lessons from Cambridge were not welcome in academia and in incorporated. As an example, one reason for the creation of so many start-up companies in Cambridge was the lack of tenure for most staff. Researchers who wanted to keep the Cambridge lifestyle had to go out and set up a compnay in order to earn a living.

Pault Stapleton, from NICTA was the next speaker on the NICTA commercialisation model. NITA has licencsing of technology to existing companies and spinouts (creating new companies). More recently NICTA has offered R&C services. NICTA has a commercialisation team to support the researchers.

NICTA's Investment Model

Grants Pre-Commercialisation

Up to AUD 50K Market Development Grant Up to AUD 100K Proof of Concept
Investments for Commercialisation
Up to AUD 250K NIPR Investment
Up to further AUD 250K from NIPR

From: "NICTA's Investment Model", NICTA, 2008.
As an example Paul mentioned the Goanna Software Bug Detection tool , AutoMap map analysis, and the Performance Assessment for Service Architecture (ePASA) for ICT development.

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