Lifting R&D investment could lead to long term economic growth


Australia’s economy could be $24 billion bigger over 10 years if investment in higher education research and development (R&D) was lifted by just one per cent, according to Universities Australia’s submission to the Productivity Commission. 

The submission outlines a range of drivers to improve Australia’s productivity growth and highlights the vital role universities play in finding the solutions. 

“Australia’s enviable economic growth, low unemployment and high living standards depend largely on improving productivity, but our productivity growth has slowed,” Universities Australia chief executive Catriona Jackson said. 

“Our university sector is at the heart of driving Australia’s productivity, through the highly-skilled graduates we produce and the technological and social innovation we generate through research.” 

Jackson said that researchers tackle the biggest challenges, from developing new technologies and industries to responding to crises like climate change and global pandemics. 

“Universities are helping build the workforce of tomorrow, generating the bright ideas we’ll need and powering businesses to innovate and thrive,” she said. 

“If we lift investment in higher education research and development by just one per cent, every Australian would reap the benefits.” 

A way to boost productivity is by strengthening collaboration between industry and university. According to Jackson, the data shows there is work to do to raise Australia’s investment in R&D. 

“A shift in public support for business research and innovation – towards direct support and away from tax concessions – can better provide the incentives for business to do research and foster industry-university partnerships,” she said. 

The submission also calls for a range of other initiatives to unleash the potential of universities to drive productivity, deal with some of Australia’s most pressing challenges and increase the size of the economy, including: 

  • expanding university places to meet the growing need for skilled graduates; 
  • supporting people wishing to upskill and retrain quickly via microcredentials; 
  • encouraging university and community-based partnerships to get more health professional students into aged, disability and primary care faster; 
  • supporting complementary use of technology to help health professional students complete the practical learning components of their degrees on time; and 
  • removing red tape burdens that inhibit peak performance. 

Universities Australia has released an overview of key facts and figures, the full submission to the Productivity Commission as well as supporting modelling from Deloitte Access Economics – The importance of universities to Australia’s prosperity. 

View the submission, report and supporting documents here.