Analysis of University Research Commercialisation


Dr Tim Cahill

Managing Director

7 Apr, 2021

The Australian Department of Education has recently released a consultation paper on University Research Commercialisation in Australia with the aim of developing a new scheme to better translate and commercialise university research outputs. Research Strategies Australia was commissioned by our client, La Trobe University, to provide expert analysis of the issues raised in the consultation paper to inform their response to government.

We are very happy that La Trobe has allowed us to share some of that analysis publicly today.

Some key insights from our analysis are:

  • Any scheme designed for Australia must respond to the specific needs of our innovation and research system. This includes the importance of small and medium enterprise, which forms the vast majority of our private sector. It also includes the importance of our services-based sector where the majority of Australians are employed. Any scheme aimed at increasing the benefits of university commercailisation must be designed to maxmise the participation of SMEs and companies across services-based industry.
  • For the maximum benefit to flow to the Australian taxpayer, any scheme must be targeted at capturing value on-shore in Australia. Often, investments into Australia’s public university research will create vast commercial returns which are realised off-shore. While this may shift the cost of who pays for university-based research, there are limited opportunities for job creation and economic activity inside of Australia. Any scheme aimed at realising benefits within Australia must be primarily aimed at fostering greater commercialisation of Australian university research by Australian companies or companies with a substantial local presence.
  • Of the various schemes identified as potential models in the government’s consultation paper, most would not work in Australia. In some cases, there is no evidence of the program having an impact (UK’s Grand Challenges, Japan’s Moonshot Program, Australia’s Low Emissions Technology Statement). In others, the national system that the program is designed to support is so dissimilar to Australia’s that it is not comparable (USA’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Japan’s Moonshot). For others the benefits are small and unlikely to scale, or have been determined to be failing to meet their objectives (NZ PreSeed Accelerator Fund and UK Catapult network, respectively). The two exceptions are the two Canadian programs, the Industrial Research Assistance Program (IRAP) and the Strategic Innovation Fund (SIF).

About us

Research Strategies Australia was established in 2014 by Dr Tim Cahill. Tim has over 15 years experience working with stakeholders in Australia’s R&D sector. He has held executive roles in the public, private, non-profit and higher education sectors, including Director of R&D Advisory and Higher Education for KPMG Australia, Director of Research Evaluation at the Australian Research Council and Chief Data Scientist at The Conversation Media Group.

Tim is regarded internationally as an expert in research strategy, evaluation, higher education policy, scientometrics and research commercialisation. He is currently a Board Member of the Chemistry and Polymers Manufacturing Industry Network, serves on the Australia FAIR Access Working Group, and is an Honorary Fellow of the Research for Education Impact Research Centre at Deakin University.