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Morrison says universities should shift focus from ‘publish or perish’ towards commercialising research

The Morrison government is pushing for universities to shift from “publish or perish” incentives to focus on commercialising their research, industry needs and “national priorities”.

Announcing $242.7 million for a yet-to-be-selected small group of “trailblazer” universities, the government wants to encourage those that are “early adopters of intellectual property, industrial relations and skills practices to lift collaboration and commercialisation outcomes”.

Four universities, including one regional institution, will be funded under the program. They will work with industry partners to drive commercialisation across the government’s six manufacturing priorities.

These priorities are resources technology and critical minerals processing; food and beverage manufacturing; medical products; recycling and clean energy; defence, and space.

Addressing the Business Council of Australia on Wednesday, Morrison reinforced the government’s emphasis on the need for universities to be practically and commercially oriented.

“Our government wants to make sure that our researchers and universities that house them are rewarded for their discoveries,” he said.

“Too often this research is just left on the shelf and not taken further down the pipeline towards production here in Australia. Too often, Australian businesses are missing out on those opportunities to commercialise Australian research and Australian universities and researchers are missing out on opportunities to be rewarded for their work.”

Morrison highlighted what he saw as barriers to greater commercialisation.

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“Researchers are currently incentivised to publish and have their work cited as often as possible. And this ‘publish or perish’ mindset is useful for getting tenure, but does little to spur innovation or create start-ups.

"Universities need to shift incentives towards high value commercial opportunities, to industry needs and national priorities. We want to see universities create incentives for researchers to collaborate with industry to drive investment, co-investment, and product development.”

A competitive process will select four universities. Each will receive $50 million over four years to build commercialisation capacity, and will also receive CSIRO specialist support.

Applications from universities and industry partners will be judged against three criteria:

  • Commercialisation readiness

  • Research capability to support a national manufacturing priority

  • “Industry alignment”, including collaborative partnerships with industry and co-funding from business partners, greater workforce mobility between businesses and universities, and offering courses in priority areas that are endorsed by industry.

“Business has a role to play,” Morrison said. “Australian businesses need to recognise the value of Australian research and invest in the ideas that will create products and grow our economy.”

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