Q&A with Kim Carr

Federal science minister Kim Carr outlines his thinking and his philosophy to <i>Australian Life Scientist</i>.

What was the rationale behind taking science and research from its traditional place with higher education and creating this new portfolio?

Our key policy objective is to change the culture in this country, to build a culture of innovation. Our policy driver is to encourage the various instruments of government to lift up the political agenda the issues associated with innovation, science and research; to encourage a much better relationship between our research institutes, our public research agencies and the private sector; to ensure that we marshal the very best talent to confront the challenges facing this society in the 21st century.

You hope to bring the public research sector closer to industry?

While I have a very firm commitment to basic research, it is important to strengthen the relationship between the public and private sectors. Collaboration is a key theme running through the policy programs. We want to encourage not just new collaborations within the public sector - in particular on an interdisciplinary basis - but also between the public and private sectors. That's why our National Innovation Review is being established so that we can explore ways that that can be achieved more quickly.

Do you hope to get more private industry investment in public research?

Yes. One of the other areas we want to look at is ways in which we can encourage privately funded - not private fees-based - but privately, industry-funded PhD programs. There are many other areas but that's just one example.

What do you think the priorities of the National Innovation Review should be in a broad sense?

We need to align our national innovation priorities with our research priorities. At the moment there has not been a great deal of discussion about the connection, there certainly hasn't been much of a discussion about the appropriateness of our research priorities as they are currently constituted. There's an opportunity to evaluate these issues, but in terms of innovation we need to examine ways in which we can build a more concentrated effort, where we can end the research fragmentation, we can build higher levels of coordination between the Commonwealth and the states and we can see that we have much stronger international linkages than we currently do.

There is a huge array of different Commonwealth and state funding programs - you hope to streamline that?

There are 169 [different programs]. There are clearly two things we should do: we need a higher level of co-ordination, and we also need to establish where the gaps are and take the policy steps to close those gaps. By international standards, this country is slipping and we just can't afford to do that. I want to see a doubling in our R&D effort, public and private, and it's quite clear we need to lift our performance dramatically. We need to move in all areas, whether it's research training or research infrastructure.

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Kate McDonald

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