R&D Tax Incentive vital in lifting university-industry collaboration

The Australian Technology Network of Universities (ATN) is pleased to see that improving business-research collaboration is a key focus of the R&D Tax Incentive Review report, released yesterday by The Hon. Greg Hunt, Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science.

The report, undertaken by Chair of Innovation Australia Bill Ferris, Australia’s Chief Scientist Alan Finkel and Secretary to the Treasury John Fraser, recommends introducing a collaboration premium of up to 20% to encourage collaboration with publicly funded research organisations. It also recommends the R&D Tax incentive be applied to the cost of employing new STEM PhD graduates in their first three years of employment.

ATN Executive Director Renee Hindmarsh says the ATN has always been a strong advocate in linking a portion of the R&D Tax Incentive to lift the rate of collaboration between universities and industry.

“Getting the right incentives in place is vital to drive behavioural change.

“If businesses were able to claim the R&D tax incentive for work undertaken by a PhD graduate this would be a relatively low cost national investment that would see more of our best and brightest young minds being employed in industry.

“Engaging smaller businesses who do not currently innovative and collaborate is imperative, considering over 97 per cent of businesses in Australia are small or micro enterprises.

“Increase the rate of the refundable R&D Tax Incentive for small and micro firms will provide a greater incentive for smaller companies to undertake technologically challenging developments and offset the high cost/unavailability of capital for these companies,” Ms Hindmarsh says.

“Only 9.5 per cent of total projects registered under the R&D Tax Program in the 2013-14 income year involved collaboration with another organisation, which is surprising given the R&D Tax Incentive accounts for a significant portion of the Australian Government investment in R&D.

“It is important that any policy changes compliment other initiatives aimed at supporting research and innovation, taking a holistic approach in the context of the Government’s National Innovation and Science Agenda and the broader innovation system.

Collaboration is part of the institutional DNA at ATN universities, evidenced by the fact since 2010 more than two-thirds of the ATN research income has come from industry-related sources or end users.

The ATN represents five of the most innovative and enterprising universities in Australia, who are committed to working with end-users to ensure the maximum impact and community benefit is gained from the results of research and development activities.

“We are seen as exemplars in improving the rate of collaboration in Australia and we look forward to working with the Government to boost the R&D activities to drive productivity and growth,” Ms Hindmarsh says.