1301.0 - Year Book Australia, 2003  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 24/01/2003   
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Contents >> Science and Innovation >> Official organisations and administration

There are many organisations in Australia concerned in some way with the development of science and innovation.

The Commonwealth Government's commitment to science and innovation was reaffirmed in the innovation statement of January 2001, Backing Australia's Ability. This statement gathered together a range of new and continuing programs in support of innovation and allocated nearly $3b to these programs. Implementation of these programs, and other related programs and policies, rests with the Department of Industry, Tourism and Resources, the Department of Education, Science and Training and the Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts. These departments are concerned with the development and maintenance of Australia's scientific and innovative capability. The R&D activity summarised in tables 25.1-25.14 does not show the full impact from Backing Australia's Ability. Further information on the preliminary outcomes are reported in the Government's annual report on innovation for 2002.

A number of other Commonwealth government organisations either support or carry out science and innovation related activities. State governments are also involved in science and innovation through state government departments, science and technology councils and other organisations. Non-government organisations participating in scientific and innovative activities include higher education institutions, professional and learned bodies, private organisations and industry groups.

Department of Industry, Tourism and Resources

The Department of Industry, Tourism and Resources is responsible for a number of federally supported innovation-related industry development programs. The department includes the Innovation and Industry Policy Division, Geoscience Australia, Biotechnology Australia, IP Australia and AusIndustry, including the Industry Research and Development Board programs.

The department, through AusIndustry, administers a number of programs, under Backing Australia's Ability, to support innovation, of which the biggest are the Tax Concession for Research and Development scheme and the Strategic Assistance for Research and Development (Start) Program.

R&D Tax Concession Program

The tax concession for R&D, which commenced from July 1985, is the focus of one of the major programs in the Commonwealth Government's package of measures to encourage R&D in Australia.

The concession allows companies incorporated in Australia, public trading trusts and partnerships of eligible companies, to deduct up to 125%, in some cases up to 175%, of eligible expenditure on R&D activities when lodging their corporate tax returns. Small companies, which are otherwise eligible but are making a tax loss, may claim the concession in the form of a cash rebate.

Strategic Assistance for Research and Development (Start) Program

The R&D Start Program provides grants and concessional loans to support research, development and commercialisation by Australian firms. Grants of up to $15m are available, although they typically range between $50,000 and $5m. Assistance is provided on a competitive basis to companies incorporated in Australia. The program aims to:

  • increase the number of R&D projects with high commercial potential that are undertaken by companies
  • foster greater commercialisation of the outcomes from R&D projects
  • foster collaborative R&D and related activities through companies working together, or working with research institutions
  • increase the level of R&D and its commercialisation that provides benefit to Australia.

Other complementary programs supporting commercialisation (beyond R&D) include the Innovation Access Program (which facilitates technology diffusion from overseas) and the Commercialising Emerging Technologies Program (which provides management assistance to innovative small businesses).

Biotechnology Australia

Biotechnology Australia is a collaboration of five Commonwealth departments, created to assist in coordinating the Government's approach to biotechnology.

Biotechnology Australia's aim is to increase the public's general awareness of biotechnology and its uses, through the provision of balanced and factual information explaining the technology, its applications, and regulations to safeguard people and the environment.

The goal is to ensure that Australia captures the benefits arising from the medical, agricultural and environmental application of biotechnology, while ensuring maximum safety for people as well as the environment.

Department of Education, Science and Training

The Department of Education, Science and Training is responsible for a number of federally supported science and technology-related development programs. The department includes the Science Group which provides quality analysis and policy advice, and delivers programs to help build and promote Australia's science and technology base. The Group includes the Science and Technology Policy Branch, the National Research Priorities Task Force, the International Relations and Collaboration Branch, the Science Programmes Branch and the Office of the Chief Scientist.

The department administers a number of programs to support innovation, including the Cooperative Research Centres Program.

The scientific and technological bodies of the portfolio include the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation and the Australian Institute of Marine Science.

Cooperative Research Centres (CRC) Program

The CRC Program was launched in May 1990.

The CRC bring together researchers from universities, CSIRO and other government laboratories, and private industry or public sector agencies, in long-term collaborative arrangements which support research and development, and educational activities, that achieve real outcomes of national economic and social significance.

The program emphasises the importance of developing collaborative arrangements between researchers, and between researchers and research users in the private and public sectors, in order to maximise the capture of the benefits of publicly funded research through an enhanced process of commercialisation or utilisation by the users of that research.

Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO)

The CSIRO is an independent statutory authority constituted and operating under the provisions of the Science and Industry Research Act 1949 (Cwlth) and the Commonwealth Authorities and Companies Act 1997 (Cwlth). Its primary role is as an applications-oriented research organisation in support of major industry sectors and selected areas of community interest, with a strong commitment to the effective transfer of its results to users.

It is one of the largest and most diverse scientific institutions in the world, with a staff of over 6,000 located at 60 sites throughout Australia.
Briefly, the CSIRO's primary statutory functions are to:
  • carry out scientific research for the benefit of Australian industry, the community, national objectives, national or international responsibilities, or for any other purpose determined by the minister
  • encourage or facilitate the application or utilisation of the results of such research.

Other functions include dissemination and publication of scientific information, international liaison in scientific matters, and provision of services and facilities.

The CSIRO's work is planned and prioritised on a sectoral basis and conducted through core business units - CSIRO divisions. External advice on research priorities is channelled through sector advisory committees. Each sector represents an industry group, market, or natural resource of national significance. There are 22 sectors covering research in five broad groupings:

Agribusiness - field crops; food processing; forestry, wood and paper industries; horticulture; meat, dairy and aquaculture; wool and textiles

Environment and Natural Resources - biodiversity; climate and atmosphere; land and water; marine

Information Technology, Infrastructure and Services - information technology and telecommunications; built environment; measurement standards; radio astronomy; services

Manufacturing - chemicals and plastics; integrated manufactured products; pharmaceuticals and human health

Minerals and Energy - coal and energy; mineral exploration and mining; mineral processing and metal production; petroleum.

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