24 January 2013

Australia should aim to employ more researchers in business and other settings says University of Queensland Vice-Chancellor Professor Peter Høj.

In his 2012 ATSE (Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering) Oration, ‘From Excellence to Excellence-Plus’, delivered at the AGM/New Fellows dinner late last year, Professor Peter Høj said Australia needed a different approach to innovation to sustain and further build the prosperity and social cohesiveness we now enjoy so much.

“A university system where there is reward for high quality research must continue - top research is our “sine qua non”, without which we have nothing. It should be augmented by reward for success in translating research to an application and commercialisation stage, to when it has positive economic and societal impact,” he said.

“Raising the number of good researchers would enhance our innovation system, especially if this is linked to areas where a strategic roadmap has shown a need for disciplinary and interdisciplinary expertise."

Professor Høj also said our reward systems could be improved to ensure that the innovation dividends flowing from our investment in university research are optimal.

“We need to change attitudes in Australian businesses towards innovation both in terms of hiring and investment principles," he said.

“An improvement in our innovation efforts is not only about universities reaching out, but very much about businesses’ ability to spot the opportunities for meaningful partnerships and investment at an early stage of the innovation cycle.”

Professor Høj explained that Australia and the UK have about two researchers in business enterprises per five in higher education (excluding CSIRO) – a ratio of 0.4 – compared to countries such as Finland, Denmark and Germany, which each have ratios of at least 2.

He said the secret to the success of most of these countries could relate to their business expenditure on research and development.

“It’s important that we change these trends to create a resilient Australia with a much more diversified economy,” he said.

“We should also look to giving a larger proportion of our university graduates the self-confidence and enthusiasm to become researchers, entrepreneurs and innovators outside the academic sphere.”

To read the full Oration please click here

To find out more about ATSE please visit http://www.atse.org.au/

Media: Caroline Bird, UQ Communications, 07 3365 1931 or c.bird1@uq.edu.au