University science research is a deep repository of knowledge and is uniquely positioned to respond to the COVID-19 crisis, through research across multiple disciplines and targeting many different problem areas.
In addition, Australian universities COVID-19 response included university science departments utilising their unique facilities and knowledge.
They manufactured hundreds of thousands of masks and other personal protective equipment, began research into mental health effects, modelled the spread of the virus, looked at the effects on specific groups including minorities and regions, and worked with the government and schools to provide resources and expertise.
This virus is not finished, nor is the research. There will be rapidly changing approaches to testing regimes, new drugs and new vaccines. There will also be ongoing impacts, challenges and setbacks.
As this latest issue of Australian University Science goes to show, as the virus continues to change our world, university science research will be at the frontline in helping us to understand, adapt and respond to this crisis.
– Heather Catchpole, Editor, Australian University Science & Head of Content, Refraction Media. @hcatchpole
About Australian University Science
Australian University Science is produced by STEM-specialist publisher, Refraction Media (publishers of ScienceMeetsBusiness.com.au), on behalf of the Australian Council of Deans of Science.
Australian University Science highlights the collaborative work of the science community in this third edition, and profiles the roles graduates play in industry.
To provide feedback or suggestions to the editors, subscribe to this publication or order additional copies, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Leaders from both academia and business agree that the best way to foster innovation in science and technology is by getting researchers, business and startups working together.
We’ve prepared this two-part Relationship Guide to canvass the issues and promote the assistance and support available to researchers who want to interact more closely with industry. Read Part 1 here.
Businesses look to universities and research institutes for new knowledge that can help them scale up and innovate their products and services. By accessing the latest research findings, businesses of all kinds can improve their efficiency and profit. At the same time, researchers can create sustainable jobs, novel solutions and global pathways for their knowledge. While there’s robust support available to facilitate research-business relationships, it can be hard for a business to find the knowledge they need. Cultural differences and misunderstandings can also get in the way.
Get out of your bubble!
The best way for researchers to find new opportunities is by networking, knocking on doors and telling others about their discoveries. There will be no collaborative opportunities for those that can’t be found and the new commercial engagement KPIs attached to federal research funding provide strong incentives for all academic researchers to widely communicate the value and potential of their work.
It’s all in the timing
Academics might resist the faster timeframes imposed by businesses seeking knowledge input in order to take a product to market, but unless researchers are prepared to respond to commercial timeframes and develop a sense of urgency, there’s a chance that opportunities will pass them by. No matter how closely a research project aligns with a commercial product, the early bird will get the worm.
Universities are increasingly supporting students and academics to acquire the skills they need to explore commercial opportunities, with assistance provided by way of incubators, accelerators, short courses and government support. Learn more about some of the initiatives that help facilitate and accelerate research-business partnerships: Tech Connect, AMSI Intern, CSIRO’s ON, Cicada Innovations and Data 61’s Ribit and Expert Connect platforms.
Don’t rely on government support
While a broad range of government support is available to help researchers get started, Appen founder Dr Julie Vonwiller warns that to succeed, a product must be able to stand alone on its own merit in a marketplace without the need for ongoing subsidies.
Publish or perish?
There’s often a tension between publishing and protecting knowledge with IP, but patent attorney Dr Gavin Recchia says it’s all about getting the timing right.
It’s a team sport
Business owners Dr Alan Taylor and Dr Julie Vonwiller say the entrepreneurial journey requires a vast array of skills and talents and innovation all the way along as a business evolves.
Leaders from both academia and business agree that the best way to foster innovation in science and technology is by getting researchers, business and startups working together.
We’ve prepared this two-part Relationship Guide to canvass the issues and promote the assistance and support available to researchers who want to interact more closely with industry.
As part of the 2017 Spark Festival, Inspiring Australia NSW hosted a forum to explore what it would take to create more value from publicly funded knowledge.
Participants discussed what needs to change in universities to better prepare researchers for the future.
The 2017 Global Innovation Index ranks Australia 23rd in the world, behind China, New Zealand, Hong Kong and Singapore. While Australia is placed 10th in terms of “knowledge workers” it scores a low 52nd for innovation linkages and 48th for knowledge absorption. This is despite our ranking in the top 10 worldwide for innovation input – infrastructure, human capital, market sophistication and education.
So what’s not working in our research-business relationships and how can we fix it?
Changing the culture
With the next generation of STEM researchers often being trained by academics who lack the expertise, training and knowledge to commercialise research knowledge, there’s a pressing need for universities to think more innovatively about education and industry engagement. Even when an opportunity does not exactly align with a researcher’s particular interests, there may still be collaborative partnerships to explore.
Moving between academia and industry
When microbiologist Dr Dharmica Mistry left academia to enter industry, she felt like she was jumping to the dark side and abandoning a research career forever. The founder and Chief Scientist at BCAL Diagnostics, a biotech company commercialising a blood test for breast cancer screening, would like academics to be able to move more freely between the academic and commercial worlds.
Communicating is not a hobby
Dr Noushin Nasiri develops novel sensors that can detect disease in human breath. When the post doctorate researcher began talking publicly about her research and its application as an affordable, nanoscale diagnostic device, four industry partners made contact to explore commercial opportunities. But communicating research, she says, is still seen as a hobby.
A shared vision
Professor Veena Sahajwalla says that in order to develop commercialisation outcomes, it is critical for researchers to be able to both articulate the value and potential application of their work and also to understand the needs of the industry partner and their vision for the future.
Business can access research knowledge
AusIndustry Innovation Facilitator Gary Colquhoun helps Australian businesses identify opportunities for research collaboration to address their knowledge gaps in all kinds of ways, driving business innovation and creating a positive impact on the economy.
Shelley Copsey leads New Ventures and Commercialisation at Data61 and is working with research startups to help them develop the sustainability and longevity they need to build a product pipeline. She says that to successfully commercialise knowledge, researchers must develop the skills to build solid relationships with multiple research organisations as well as in-house R&D capability.
– Jackie Randles
Click here for Research and industry – A relationships guide (Part 2).
The Commercialising Research forum on Monday 16 October from 2 pm at Sydney School of Entrepreneurship in Ultimo is a chance for the research, startup and business communities to come together with people from different professional backgrounds to discuss the process of research commercialisation and how scientists translate cutting edge research in a variety of settings.
Thriving economies need both blue sky and applied research. Some research begins and doesn’t necessarily end. There’s no telling where blue sky research may lead, and the open-endedness of academia has led to some of the world’s most profound discoveries.
Other research lends itself more easily to commercialisation. Academia and business might be like chalk and cheese, but these sectors are increasingly collaborating to create new products and services, using scientific knowledge to benefit the community. This forum, developed in partnership with Sydney’s research community, looks at culture and collaboration between researchers and the business/startup world.
Discuss the issues with science and engineering researchers that have founded companies and are collaborating with industry and entrepreneurs to progress exciting scitech innovation – both within and outside of universities and medical research environments.
Networking drinks and canapés will be served at the end of formal proceedings. Don’t miss this chance to meet people from diverse professional backgrounds and discover how to take advantage of the assistance available to help commercialise research knowledge.
Date and Time: 2:00 pm – 7:30 pm, Monday 16 October, 2017
The Australian National University and the University of Western Australia have become the first research institutions in Australasia to join IN-PART, a global university-industry collaboration platform.
Researchers at these universities will have access to a growing community of 2000+ R&D professionals from over 600 businesses in Europe, Oceania, the UK, and the USA, who use IN-PART to collaborate with universities in the commercialisation of academic research.
“The potential of the output from world leading research at Australian institutions is huge, but the limited industrial base means that it is essential we partner with corporate world leaders to realise that potential”, said Professor Michael Cardew-Hall, Pro Vice-Chancellor of Innovation at The Australian National University.
“The ANU has strong links with many partner research institutions worldwide and strategic partnerships with major corporations. However, developing new partnerships that are mutually beneficial is a key strategy for the University”.
The Australian National University (ANU) and the University of Western Australia (UWA) will join 70 universities from the UK, USA, Japan, and Europe — including Cambridge, Cornell, and King’s College London — who currently use IN-PART to publish innovation and expertise from academics who are actively looking to interact with industry.
“We’re very excited about being able to profile our projects to targeted people in relevant industries, and to show people that UWA and Australia are the home of some amazing innovations. Just as our researchers rely on collaborating locally and internationally, tech transfer offices need to look further afield for development partners with particular expertise and routes to market”, said Simon Handford, Associate Director of Innovation at the University of Western Australia.
“Hopefully, IN-PART can help us meet future R&D partners and give more projects the chance of being translated into something that can be put to use”.
Launched in January 2014, IN-PART has facilitated the first point of contact for a range of university-industry collaborations that include licensing deals, co-development projects with joint funding, academic secondments, and long-term research partnerships.
This information was first shared by IN-PART on 11 August 2016.
Tony Peacock takes a closer look at Australia’s innovation sector compared to the rest of the world.
Innovation and Science Australia, the new body created in last December’s National Innovation and Science Agenda, has not sat idle during the election period. The Office of Innovation and Science Australia wound up a series of strategic workshops in Canberra yesterday, developing a 15-year Strategic Plan for Australia’s innovation sector. The plan will develop over the next year and will be a vitally important guiding document in setting direction for Australia’s innovation sector to 2030.
As is the case with many workshops, the facilitator asked each participant to make an opening observation, and mine surprised the person next to me. I was surprised at her surprise. It was basically that even the depiction in graphics of innovation as a linear process that moves from knowledge creation to knowledge transfer through to knowledge application can be fraught. It can over emphasise the expectations on universities in our innovation system. Our system is relatively highly reliant on universities already and we have to be very careful not to expect them keep doing more and more. The primary role of universities is to teach and their biggest impact in the innovation system is to develop talent. All universities also conduct research, but in Australia, we rely on university research much more heavily than most countries.
To illustrate, I’ve pulled out the OECD figures on who performed R&D in four countries in 2013 (the latest year with information for Australia, the USA, Germany and Israel). I chose these particular countries because we often hear comparisons between their systems and ours. Relative to other countries, Australia is roughly twice as reliant on universities to perform our total national research effort. Business in Australia performs relatively less research than business in the other countries but it is important when framing strategic directions to remember that in Australia, businesses still do double the research of our universities. Business is absolutely not sitting at the end of a knowledge generation process waiting to be fed.
This is not at all a criticism of universities. Australian universities are an unmitigated success. They do a brilliant job of teaching Australian and international students at both undergraduate and graduate levels. They do brilliant research. There is no doubt they can do better at engaging with industry, but most have lifted very significantly in that space already. How much more can we genuinely expect? Many universities are expressing concerns that they are cross-subsidising research with teaching dollars already (a fraught argument itself because students are attracted to high reputation universities, who largely drive reputation through their research profile). But they are probably leveraged about as far as possible.
Surely the key strategic issue in Australia’s innovation sector is to drive more business innovation? Relative to the rest of the world, our businesses do less research, but they are still the largest part of the innovation system as a whole. We need to think of business as the main player it is in performing R&D and how we can encourage yet more business research to enhance national prosperity. The people at the Office of Innovation and Science Australia are on to it and they acknowledge that there is “no simple way to fully describe its (Australia’s innovation sector) components or dynamics”. Perhaps that’s because in many ways it is not a “system” at all, which makes the task of strategic planning that much more difficult. It is certainly a task worth supporting.
Gone are the days when students enrol in university with the ultimate aim of being employed by a large company. Today, students are looking for more than just a degree and a set career path to follow. “Forty per cent of our students say that they don’t want jobs,” says Attila Brungs, Vice Chancellor of the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS). “They want to create their own career path as entrepreneurs.”
To help kick-start these ambitions, UTS has launched the Hatchery and Hatchery+ pre-incubator and incubator programs. Far from typical classroom learning, the Hatchery programs are open to students from all faculties and offer a cross-disciplinary, hands-on environment to develop startup skills. In addition to classes, workshops and networking events, students are given access to their own co-working space and the support of industry mentors.
The timing could not be better. It is estimated that tech startups could contribute $100 billion to Australia’s gross domestic product by 2030. But according to the recent report Boosting High-Impact Entrepreneurship in Australia commissioned by Australia’s former Chief Scientist Ian Chubb, Australian innovation continues to lag behind countries like South Korea and the United Kingdom. Despite producing around 43,000 STEM publications annually, tech startups currently make up just 0.06% of all Australian businesses.
The report pointed out that universities hold the key to creating fast-growing and globally competitive new businesses. There was an emphasis on making entrepreneurship more accessible to innovation-driven students by fostering industry partnerships, encouraging a stronger startup culture and developing more incubator programs – similar to the Hatchery.
The six-week Hatchery pre-incubator program is aimed at students considering an entrepreneurial career and focuses on the development of innovative business ideas. The program uses a range of practical approaches, such as teaching students how to design prototypes with limited materials and how to pitch ideas to investors. The Hatchery also gives participants the opportunity to connect with industry powerhouses like Microsoft, the Commonwealth Bank of Australia Innovation Lab and ABC Innovation.
“Learning alongside people from such diverse backgrounds is helping me turn my ideas into a business,” she says. “I definitely feel more prepared to collaborate with people from different fields than I did when I graduated with my Arts degree in 2012.”
For standout business ideas, UTS recently launched Hatchery+, a three-month incubator program that supports the growth of early-stage startups founded by UTS students or alumni. Hatchery+ offers its startups free access to their own co-working space, clinics on business topics ranging from IP law to web development, and continual support from mentors. The program also includes some funding towards business development and an introduction to potential investors.
One of the seven startups participating in Hatchery+ is Psykinetic, a social enterprise that produces life-improving technologies for people with severe disabilities like cerebral palsy. Founded by biomedical engineer and futurist presenter Dr Jordan Nguyen, Psykinetic’s products include a thought-controlled wheelchair and eye-tracking software to enable people with disabilities to use keyboards.
After just a few weeks of being involved with Hatchery+, Jordan says that Psykinetic is ready for further investment. He says that the program has enabled him to focus on certain aspects of his startup that had been neglected like accounting and administration. “It’s been a great opportunity to tie up loose ends that we hadn’t yet thought of,” he says. “It’s so exciting to get a clearer idea of how to give your business the best possible start instead of cutting corners down the line without even realising.”
Hatchery+ offers participants the dedicated support of industry mentors like Vicki Lay, a former student founder of the successful online textbook resource Zookal. For UTS MBA student Leah Callon-Butler, the opportunity to discuss ideas with experienced entrepreneurs has been invaluable for the development of her startup NeoWip, a digital hub that aims to help Australian businesses expand across the globe in a fast and cost-effective way.
“Being able to bounce ideas off industry experts who have been-there-done-that allows me to leverage a wealth of validated learning that already exists in the Australian startup community,” she says. “The mentor relationships have really accelerated the growth and development of my company.”
While Australia has been slow to support a startup culture, the Hatchery and Hatchery+ join a growing number of startup facilities provided by Australian universities, such as Western Sydney University’s Launch Pad and the University of Wollongong’s iAccelerate hub. “I’m excited by the impact that these programs are going to have,” says Brungs. “Cross-disciplinary collaboration is key to innovation and advancement.”