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ATN Enhancing Value of PhDs in Industry to Boost Australian Innovation

22 June 2017

The Australian Technology Network of Universities (ATN) today released a report composed by the Nous Group which outlines five recommendations to enhance the value of PhDs in Australian Industry

The Australian Technology Network of Universities (ATN) today released a report composed by the Nous Group which outlines five recommendations to enhance the value of PhDs in Australian Industry.

“Australia has low rates of collaboration between publicly funded research organisations and industry, compared to the rest of the OECD. Yet we know that organisations who collaborate are more than 70% more likely to develop new to the world innovation. It is vital Australia looks for ways to increase mobility and collaboration between academia and industry”, said Renee Hindmarsh, Executive Director of the ATN.

“The report provides five recommendations to policy makers, based on feedback from universities and nearly 100 industry partners that were interviewed in preparation for the report.”

The report found that PhDs are important enablers of industry innovation and economic growth, and that industry is already benefiting from PhD collaboration. Universities are actively engagement in equipping PhDs with skills that increase their employability in industry. However, there are barriers that are preventing optimal collaboration. Scaling up initiatives to promote collaboration and better promoting existing initiatives helps to foster collaboration.

“The report’s recommendations highlight the importance of scale, incentives for both industry and universities, and promoting awareness”, Ms Hindmarsh said.

Minister for Education and Training Simon Birmingham and the Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science Arthur Sinodinos said the Turnbull Government welcomed the focus on university and industry collaborations and had been backing initiatives to encourage deeper relationships between researchers and businesses through the National Innovation and Science Agenda.

“The ATN has been at the forefront of university-industry collaborations for a number of years and their industry PhD program is giving many students a taste of the skills they will need in the dynamic and exciting workplaces in existing and emerging industries,” they said.

“This report focuses on an important area of opportunity to improve the connections between university research and industry.  As the report highlights, there is much scope for improving the understanding of business in the skills that a PhD student develops, in encouraging more students to undertake research of greater relevance to industry, and in ensuring that the research outcomes are widely disseminated to maximise the benefit.   We look forward to further discussions with ATN and its member universities on how this opportunity can be realised,” said Jenny Lambert, Director Employment, Education and Training, ACCI.

The report builds on previous work by the ATN to promote collaboration and industry PhDs. There are more than 18,000 industry partnership across the member universities, and the ATN houses Australia’s only Industry Doctoral Training Program and the e-Grad school that has provided transferrable skills such as communications and project management to more than 10,000 students so far.

The complete recommendations are:

Recommendation 1: Expand in place supporting structures to deepen PhD and university collaboration with industry

Recommendation 2: Ensure initiatives targeting PhD employability have broad scale

Recommendation 3: Link a portion of PhD scholarships to industry collaboration

Recommendation 4: Implement a national communication strategy to improve awareness and develop a deeper understanding in industry of the PhD

Recommendation 5: Introduce tax incentives to encourage businesses to engage with PhDs