SCU welcomes Government's Innovation statement

Published 30 January 2001

Southern Cross University's Vice-Chancellor, Professor John Rickard, has responded positively to the Federal Government's Innovation Action Plan for the Future ('Backing Australia's Ability'), describing it as "Excellent news for tertiary education that is designed to pay dividends for the whole of Australian society in due course."

Details of the $2.9 billion plan were released by the Prime Minister yesterday. The Australian Vice-Chancellors' Committee called it a "Good step in the long-term task of developing the sustainable innovative capacity essential to Australia's future prosperity."

Professor Rickard said that creating additional undergraduate places and introducing an income-contingent loans scheme for postgraduate students were "positive steps towards boosting access for people in disadvantaged areas such as the North Coast."

Noting that the bulk of the Government's additional spending of $2.9 billion over the next five years would be made available in a competitive form, and thus not available automatically, Professor Rickard said he expected Southern Cross to attain at least its fair share of government funding.

"We did well in the allocation of Australian Research Council grants last year (details at http://vc.scu.edu.au/media_office/grants.htm) and although we are a fairly young institution we are involved with three high-level Cooperative Research Centres (Sustainable Production Forestry, Molecular Plant Breeding and Sustainable Tourism).

"These are two of the key areas targeted for significant funding boosts and I am sure we will continue to be highly competitive. The additional research money would benefit us tremendously," he said.

"The Innovation Statement is a right-minded step towards developing a climate for sustainable innovation in this country and that should be an urgent priority for any government," Professor Rickard added. "Australia's commitment to university-based, industry-focused R & D work has fallen well behind a number of industrialised nations and several in our own region. Although there is no quick-fix, the Government's commitment should be welcomed.

"Taken in tandem with the Opposition's plan for additional university funding, it indicates a renewed focus on education in this election year. If the outcome is continued extra funding for higher education, then it's very good news indeed."