Industry calls for joint participation to cement Australia's digital future

The Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering and the Australian Academy of Science have developed a strategic plan with 32 recommendations on how it can be done.

In a new report, the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering and the Australian Academy of Science have put forward 32 recommendations on how Australia could enhance its participation in the digital economy.

"This strategic plan is designed to help Australia do better. Numerous success stories demonstrate our ability to turn excellent science and research into commercial technologies and services that benefit Australia," co-chair and fellow of the Academy of science Rod Tucker said.

"Yet to realise our potential, we need a plan to help Australians recognise, act on and derive as much benefit as possible from opportunities in our digital research and innovation sectors."

In the Preparing for Australian Digital Future report, the recommendations have highlighted five priority areas that need to be addressed, including promoting closer partnerships between industry and the research community; strengthening Australia's digital workforce and skills pipeline; delivering whole-of-government action; achieving reforms of the research sector; and promoting digital leadership in industry.

The report has suggested to foster research and industry partnerships as there is a need to make Australia's digital strengths known through activities such as identifying, promoting, and holding multi-organisation communication events that are relevant to specific capabilities.

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It also recommended for collaboration between researchers from universities and industry to be improved, suggesting research-industry brokerage activities could be formalised to help match research capability with industry needs, and foster research–industry partnerships focused on developing future capabilities.

The report outlined how universities and publicly funded research agencies needed to reshape their research culture to safeguard and strengthen the country's digital workforce and capability pipeline, by placing substantially higher emphasis on industry experience, placements, and collaborations in hiring, promotion, and research funding.

At the same time, there are also recommendations about how to lift the skills of teachers on ICT-related topics, and the need to increase diversity, particularly women, while removing structural barriers that cause the loss of knowledge, talent, and educational investment from the ICT and engineering sectors.

"Attracting high-quality international students to, and retaining them in, Australia after they graduate is a good way to expand the diversity of the ICT skill base and to promote greater international engagement, not least of which with the home countries of those people. We should make it easier to keep such people after the end of their formal studies," the report said.

Another recommendation the report made included the need for government to undertake a future-readiness review for the Australian digital research sectors, as well as to monitor, evaluate, and optimise the applied elements of the federal government's National Innovation and Science Agenda and the Australia 2030 Plan.

As part of next steps, the report said a taskforce needs to be established to ensure recommendations are implemented and the future progress of the implementation process is monitored.

Committee co-chair and fellow of the Academy of Technology and Engineering Glenn Wightwick told ZDNet an implementation plan for the report will also need to be developed.

"We have had and are having meetings with various Chief Scientists (state and federal) to identify areas in government to focus on the findings and recommendations," he said.

"We are developing an implementation plan targeting government, industry, and the research community."

This latest report follows similar recommendations that were handed down by the Office of Innovation and Science at the start of last year.

The Australia 2030: Prosperity through innovation - A plan for Australia to thrive in the global innovation race report made 30 recommendations on how Australia could accelerate its pace to catch leaders of the innovation pack, or risk falling further behind.

"There have been a number of reviews in the past, but we feel there needs to be further focus on helping to transform Australia's economy and leverage technology to improve productivity, create new businesses, better translate knowledge from academia into industry and ensure that researchers and industry can work together to solve real world problems," Wightwick said. 

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