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ATSE column

Energy Productivity Can Cut Costs and Encourage Growth

By Bruce Godfrey

Australia needs to double its current level of national energy productivity by 2030.

The Australian government’s Energy White Paper, released in April 2015, has recognised the importance of improving Australia’s energy productivity in order to “reduce household and business energy costs and encourage economic growth”.

Defined as the amount of economic output per unit of energy input, energy productivity aims to take into account the economic, environmental and social dividends derived from the effective application of energy resources through efficiency and conservation.

Science Gets a Lifeline with the National Science Strategy

By Tanya Monro

A national science strategy can kick-start research–industry linkages.

Australian science has been thrown a substantial lifeline by the recent announcement that the Federal government is backing a national science strategy, with Industry and Science Minister Ian Macfarlane committing to consult the science sector to agree on research priorities and funding.

This is not just good news for scientists and research institutions. This is good news for the nation and for the interaction between science and industry.

Water Reform Needs to Be Back on the National Agenda

By Ken Matthews

Our national water research effort is fragmented, non-strategic and lacks leadership.

Stimulated by the millennium drought, Australia made great progress over the early years of this century in reforming and improving the way we manage our precious national water resources. That reform progress has now ground to a halt. Because the seasons in most areas of Australia have been much better, the attention of governments has shifted to other policy problems.

Can Intelligent Networks Solve Our Energy Challenge?

By John Söderbaum

We’re changing to a two-way network to exchange electricity between participants.

Australia has for many years enjoyed the comparative advantage of relatively low-cost electricity generation, but that advantage has declined in recent years because of emissions-reduction policies, the investment required to meet growing demand, and natural gas prices increasing towards parity.

A major challenge facing countries around the world, including Australia, as they seek to reduce their emissions is how to develop and implement policies that will deliver a transition to a low-emissions energy future while maintaining an adequate, reliable and competitive energy supply.

We Need Better Collaboration to Optimise Our Research

By Peter Gray

A proposed metric of industry engagement seeks to reward research impact as well as excellence.

Australia’s national competitiveness is threatened by the fact that our university researchers are less engaged in collaboration with industry than their counterparts in other countries, according to OECD data.

Government and industry have increasingly called for the problem to be addressed. The Ministers for Industry and Education recently announcing the development of a strategy entitled “Boosting the Commercial Returns from Research” to tackle this issue.

Gaps in the Government’s Energy Green Paper

By Chris Greig

The government’s energy Green Paper proposes reforms that will be difficult to deliver while ignoring several long-term issues.

The Australian government’s Energy Green Paper has weaknesses in three critical areas – its short-term focus, failure to recognise economic risks associated with greenhouse gas emissions, and institutional and fiscal barriers to proposed reforms.

The majority of the document is focused on resolving near-term issues but falls short in positioning Australia’s energy strategy to support the significant investment that will be required in the medium to longer term.

“Dr Who” Products Are the Future of Manufacturing

By Calum Drummond

Mass production is dying, opening up manufacturing opportunities for a high-tech bespoke industry.

Despite the impression that may be gained from general media coverage, Australia’s manufacturing industry remains an extremely important element of the economy, employing around one million people, contributing more than 8% of GDP directly and enabling at least another 15% of services-based GDP indirectly as well as close to 30% of Australia’s exports.

Manufacturing conducts one-quarter of all business R&D and 15% of Australia’s total R&D. Manufacturing therefore contributes a large slice of the nation’s research and innovation capacity.

International Engagement Is an Essential Strategy


Australia must improve its efforts in international collaboration to optimise its research investment.

Australia’s economic competitiveness and social and environmental well-being depend on translating its science and technology research into industry innovation and application. This process is vitally strengthened through effective international engagement.

Australia has the twelfth largest economy in the world, with a per capita GDP ranked at about seventh. But the ready availability of natural resources leads Australian industries to be configured differently from those in other OECD countries.

Time for a New Measure of Research Impact

By Margaret Hartley

We need to measure industry engagement as well as publications.

Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane set off a small storm recently when he suggested that university researchers should receive research grants based on the number of patents they register, rather than the number of papers they publish.

Shadow Minister Kim Carr attacked his comments, saying that Macfarlane’s approach would have deprived the world of inventions such as WiFi, which were produced as a result of basic, curiosity-driven Australian research.

Women Face a Thicket of Obstacles

By Susan Pond

Gender equality in science, technology and engineering will be a long process.

Women in science, technology and engineering in Australia face a thicket of obstacles in achieving their potential and using their skills to boost Australian innovation and productivity.