$50 million research grants for Australian universities that focus on commercial outcomes

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced research funding for Australian universities that take up a commercial focus. Picture: Dion Georgopoulos
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced research funding for Australian universities that take up a commercial focus. Picture: Dion Georgopoulos

The federal government has released the first of its research election commitments, announcing a $243.5 million plan to incentive "trailblazer universities" to partner with industry on manufacturing priorities.

Universities will compete for one of four grants worth up to $50 million under the Coalition plan that Scott Morrison says will focus research funding on commercial outcomes. One of the grants will go to a regional university.

"We need our universities to play a bigger role in our economy, working hand-in-glove with Australian businesses to develop the next generation of great Australian products and companies," Mr Morrison told the Business Council of Australia in a speech on Wednesday.

The successful universities establish a hub for working on one of six priority areas: defence, space, resources technology, food and beverage, clean energy and medical products.

"We're putting our best minds to the task," Mr Morrison said.

"We're focusing our researchers and business leaders on Australia's national priorities to help secure our economic recovery."

The universities will be assessed on their commercial readiness, such innovation in their intellectual property approach and clear promotion pathways for academics engaged in commercial activity to reward research entrepreneurs.

The criteria will also look at workforce mobility between businesses and universities, and what courses are offered in priority areas that are endorsed by industry.


Universities have been hit hard in the COVID-19 pandemic after the government refused them access to the $89 billion JobKeeper support funding that kept other industries afloat.

Catriona Jackson, chief executive of Universities Australia, welcomed the announcement as a recognition of the central role of universities in delivering national prosperity.

"Australian universities have a strong record of collaboration with industry partners, and the benefits this brings to the economy. We know that for every dollar invested in research, $5 is returned to the economy," she said.

"Now more than ever, investing in university research will ensure that the best and brightest can play their role in our nation's recovery from the pandemic."

In Canberra, the Australian National University suffered a $162.4m operating deficit in 2020, but welcomed the possibility of more funding for research.

"Research at ANU and other universities is a valuable resource and investment that helps unlocks this is welcome," a spokesperson said.

ANU and Universities Australia both said they were looking forward to seeing more detail about the commercial research agenda.

This story Govt promises to reward 'trailblazer' unis with commercial focus first appeared on The Canberra Times.