Overview and background

Overview

The Science and Research Priorities (the Priorities) will focus Australian Government support for science and research on the most important challenges facing the nation.

The Priorities will complement the broad base of support for research provided by the Australian Government and foster a more coordinated and strategic approach to funding science and research in Australia.

Our research capability will underpin our ability to shape our future. It is a critical factor in making our industries more competitive, transforming our economy, and building a stronger, safer, more prosperous and healthier Australia.

Like all countries our capacity to support research is finite. With diverse investments in research across multiple agencies and many processes, it is vital that we build our capacity to pursue research of importance to our nation.

To this end, the Australian Government has developed a set of Science and Research Priorities, with Practical Research Challenges for each.

The Priorities identify areas of immediate and critical importance to Australia and its place in the world. These are:

  • Food
  • Soil and Water
  • Transport
  • Cybersecurity
  • Energy
  • Resources
  • Advanced Manufacturing
  • Environmental Change, and
  • Health

The Practical Research Challenges will focus investment and activity in areas where Australia must maintain a strong research and innovation capability.

The priorities complement the five industry sectors identified in the government’s Industry Innovation and Competitiveness Agenda:

  • Advanced Manufacturing
  • Food and Agribusiness
  • Medical Technologies and Pharmaceuticals
  • Mining Equipment, Technology and Services; and
  • Oil, Gas and Energy Resources.

Download the Science and Research Priorities and Practical Research Challenges factsheet.

The Priorities are central to a long-term, strategic research investment planning process that will enable a coordinated, whole-of-government approach to research investment that is structured to meet national needs and provide value for money.

Over time, the Priorities and the Practical Research Challenges will result in an increased proportion of public investment in science and research going to areas of critical need and national importance. Future investment will be made more strategically, but this does not mean that funding will be directed only to applied or ‘mission-based’ research. Even in the priority areas, there will still be a critical need for the kind of ‘blue sky’ basic and curiosity-driven research that builds multidisciplinary capacity and provides flexibility to respond to emerging challenges and opportunities.

Background

The Boosting the commercial returns from research discussion paper, released in October 2014, suggested that the Government should develop “national research priorities and, for each priority, corresponding practical challenges to provide assurance that public research is addressing the most important questions for the nation.”

At the inaugural meeting of the Commonwealth Science Council, on 27 November 2014, the Chief Scientist, Professor Ian Chubb, presented a set of Science and Research Priorities for consideration. These Priorities were influenced by a priority setting exercise previously conducted by the Chief Scientist in 2013 and align with those set internationally.

Following the Commonwealth Science Council meeting, the Chief Scientist led further consultation on the Priorities, and ran a process for developing the Practical Research Challenges underpinning them. This involved workshops with working groups for each priority area. Industry representatives had a critical role in these working groups, which produced an initial list of practical challenges, focused on the two or three most pressing challenges facing Australia in the future.

The initial challenges were refined through targeted consultations with industry, State and Territory Chief Scientists, higher education and research sector groups, publicly funded research agencies like the CSIRO, and other government departments.

At the second meeting of the Commonwealth Science Council on 13 April 2015, the Chief Scientist presented members with the Practical Research Challenges identified for each Science and Research Priority. The Council recommended that the Government adopt the Science and Research Priorities to ensure publicly-funded research addresses the most important and timely questions facing Australia.

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