Matthew L James
Science and research
The Federal Government announced an extra $126 million on spending for science and research in universities for 2012–13 and kept funding relatively stable for the wider sector. As a result of the increase, the investment block grant funding for universities now totals $1.72 billion for research spread over six existing programs.
As a new initiative, the Government proposed that an extra $54 million over four years would go to improving participation in the study of science and mathematics at school and university. (The measure is described under the education portfolio discussion elsewhere in this document).
The Government increased funding for the Australian Research Council (ARC) and very slightly trimmed the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC). The 2012–13 funding of $760.5 million to the NHMRC Medical Research Endowment Account comes in close to last year’s $746.1 million allocation. Total net resourcing for the ARC rose from $844.7 million in 2011–12 to $915.3 million in 2012–13.
The International Science Linkages program, axed last year, received no funding. The situation for the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) is slightly more complex. In addition to government funding, it receives income from a variety of other sources including consulting, intellectual property rights and commercialisation of research. Its total resourcing is projected to dip slightly from $1642.2 million in 2011–12 to $1602.9 million in the 2012–13, but appropriation from the Government will actually rise by a very slight $11.9 million to $736.7 million. As a result of its overall decrease, CSIRO expects to lose 116 staff in the year.
At the time of writing, the Australian Government's 2012–13 Science, Research and Innovation Budget tables were not available.
Innovation and development
The Government claimed that new research and development tax incentives would deliver $1.8 billion in support over 2012–13 and that Commercialisation Australia would receive $294.1 million over the forward estimates. As well, it announced funding of $29.8 million for the start-up of a new Manufacturing Technology Innovation Centre to foster researcher and manufacturer creativity. However, funding for the Cooperative Research Centres Program will fall from $165.7 million in 2011–12 to $154.5 million in 2012–13.
Reflecting the sector’s stability, the Australian Industry (Ai) group noted that ‘In the lead-up to the Budget, Ai Group argued against further changes to the Research and Development Tax Incentive and we are pleased that the Government has not sought to achieve further savings in this area.’ Generally, reaction to the science and research budget was relaxed and muted, although concerns remain about the wider role of scientific innovation in the economy and in Australian society.
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