Four Trailblazer Universities to build commercialisation capacity

Trailblazer Universities

The federal government’s new $242.7 million Trailblazer Universities initiative will establish four new research and industry hubs that will lead Australia’s breakthroughs in critical national manufacturing priorities. 

Universities and industry will work together to develop technologies, products and businesses to solve Australia’s challenges. Each hub will focus on national priority areas from the Modern Manufacturing Strategy – defence, space, resources technology, food and beverage, clean energy and medical products. 

“We’re putting our best minds to the task,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said. “We’re focusing our researchers and business leaders on Australia’s national priorities to help secure our economic recovery. 

“The Trailblazer Universities will be a platform for our best researchers to find business partners, invest in entrepreneurs and achieve extraordinary results for the country.” 

The universities will need to demonstrate their commercialisation readiness, such as having strong links with industry partners including co-funding commitments, Intellectual Property arrangements, promotion pathways for academics who focus on commercialisation activities (rather than pure research), and a governance arrangement chaired by an industry leader. 

The four universities, selected through a competitive process, will receive up to $50 million over four years to build their commercialisation capacity and $8 million in CSIRO specialist support through their proven Test Labs. 

The federal government will partner with universities who have shown drive and interest and are willing to lead the charge, minister for Education and Youth Alan Tudge said. 

“Globally, our universities punch above their weight on pure basic research but lag in transforming research into breakthrough ideas, products and new businesses,” Tudge said. 

“We want our universities to play a bigger role in our economy, working hand-in-glove with Australian businesses to develop the next generation of great Australian products and companies. I am calling for expressions of interest from universities that are hungry to take research and convert it into commercial opportunities.” 

The fund will support select universities to become innovation trailblazers, including at least one regional university. 

“Universities that know their communities and understand the connection between research and innovation will be the winners under this scheme,” minister for Regionalisation, Regional Communications and Regional Education Bridget McKenzie said. 

“Our regional institutions already generate ground-breaking solutions to real-world problems, particularly in areas of agriculture and mining. This fund is a great opportunity to establish closer connections between universities and the innovation potential in their region. 

“I particularly encourage our regionally based campuses to consider this opportunity, as many already have positive, ongoing relationships with industry.” 

The new fund will drive research excellence and real-world impacts to accelerate Australia’s innovation agenda, minister for Defence Industry and Science and Technology Melissa Price said. 

“The government will be looking to tap into universities that align their research with the national manufacturing priority areas: defence, space, food and beverage, medical products, recycling and clean energy, and resources and critical minerals technology,” Price said. 

“This is an exciting opportunity for our universities to develop research and technology that goes on to improve the lives of all Australians.” 

The recommendations of the taskforce have been informed by a rigorous consultation process, according to the government’s Research Commercialisation Taskforce chair and Siemens Australia CEO, Jeff Connolly. 

“This is the first in a series of complementary measures that will contribute to an environment that focuses university research activity towards the goal of commercialisation and national economic benefit,” Connolly said. 

Successful universities will also be supported through a stronger partnership with the CSIRO and access CSIRO Test Lab equipment, enabling researchers to work with some of our best applied scientists to prototype and test new technologies at scale. 

This is the first initiative of the federal government’s research commercialisation agenda, with further announcements to be made in coming weeks. 

Universities are invited to submit an initial expression of interest which will be used to shortlist applicants. For more information, click here. 

About the Trailblazer Universities program 

  • Applications from universities and industry partners will be assessed against three criteria: 
    • Commercialisation readiness, including the adoption of innovative Intellectual Property arrangements, and clear promotion pathways for academics engaged in commercialisation activity to reward research entrepreneurs; 
    • Research capability to support a National Manufacturing Priority, including research translation and commercialisation capabilities to become a world-leading centre in a priority area; 
    • 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. 
  • Applications will be assessed under a two-stage process: 
    • An expression of interest (November 2021 – January 2022); 
    • A more detailed business case for shortlisted applicants (January – March 2022). 
  • Successful university-industry partnerships will receive $50 million over 4 years, which can be invested in: 
    • Recruiting and supporting leading research staff to engage in breakthrough research commercialisation activities; 
    • Training staff to build greater commercialisation capability; 
    • Research infrastructure and other facilities to support commercialisation outcomes; 
    • Developing new courses to address skills gaps in priority areas; 
    • Engaging in new partnerships with industry, including opportunities for staff mobility.