Science and technology has been given a much-needed boost in the Federal Budget handed down today.
The peak body for science, technology, engineering and mathematics – Science & Technology Australia (STA) – has welcomed the support at a time where science and technology is at a crossroads.
Significant funding boosts for crucial scientific research infrastructure has been complemented by major new investments in medical research, and technology infrastructure.
STA CEO Kylie Walker said the 2018 Budget indicates the Government has moved towards positioning Australia as a leader in global science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) research and innovation.
“The new commitment to $1.9 billion, with $393.3 million to implement the Research Infrastructure Investment Strategy, in research infrastructure following the National Research Infrastructure Roadmap is very welcome,” Ms Walker said.
“And major commitments to technology infrastructure, medical research ($1.3 billion), the Great Barrier Reef, and space science ($50 million) further strengthen the positive investment for the future of Australia’s STEM sector,” Ms Walker said.
“A return to keeping pace with CPI is very welcome for the Australian Research Council and other research agencies like the CSIRO. We’re also pleased to see specific measures to support greater participation by girls and women in STEM, and ongoing investment in inspiring all Australians to engage with science.
“A refocus of funding for the Research and Development Tax Incentive is another important step in supporting Australia’s innovation future.”
Ms Walker said the investment in science and technology would bolster the capacity for Australian science to support a healthy population, environment, and economy.
“The return on investment for science and technology is solid, and internationally it has been proven to be an effective means of securing and shoring up the economy,” she said.
STEM highlights in the 2018/19 Budget include:
- $1.9 billion for a national research infrastructure investment plan over 12 years ($393.3 million to implement the Research Infrastructure Investment Strategy);
- $1.3 billion for medical research through MRFF including $500m for genomics, $240m for frontier medical research, $125m for mental health;
- $536 million (about $150 million for research) for the Great Barrier Reef
- Return to indexation for major research funding agency Australian Research Council and other research agencies
- $70 million for the Pawsey Supercomputing Centre
- $41 million for the Australian Space Agency
- $29.9 million for Artificial Intelligence capabilities
- $260 million for satellite positioning infrastructure and imaging
- $4.5 million over four years for Women in STEM initiatives
Ms Walker said it wasn’t all good news though, with STEM graduate rates threatened by continued capping of commonwealth support for undergraduate places at Australian universities.
“Universities will need to find ways to meet growing demand, while dealing with stagnant funding in the years to come. As STEM degrees are some of the most expensive to run, we don’t expect universities will have the capacity to increase the number of STEM skilled graduates,” Ms Walker said.
“Australia will need many more people equipped with STEM skills in our workforce to compete internationally. This short-term saving will be a loss for future generations.”