Australia needs a 'knowledge economy’ fueled by scientists and arts graduates: here’s why

For decades the federal government has been asking for „bold ideas” to „reimagine” the future of Australian higher education.

A Interim report The contract for universities was published in July. Comment on this draft is due today.

While many ideas have been put forward by commentators and the review board (such as a new national university for regional students and a tax on international student fees), there is little discussion of what our university education system is for.

We think there is a need to talk about how higher education can fuel the „knowledge economy” – an economy based on technological and scientific advances –. This is important if we are going to pass ours Economic trust in carbon.

We are not the only ones calling for change. On Thursday, Australian Academy of Science President Sennupathi Jagadish told ABC’s Radio National “We have to move towards a knowledge-based economy […] Do we want to be so vulnerable as an economy and as a country?



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What is Knowledge Economy?

A knowledge economy focuses on activities that accelerate the pace of technological and scientific advances. Research and development creates products and services that lead to the creation of new companies, new industries, and new economic opportunities.

It requires both the innovation of new technologies and the application of these technologies to new and existing industries in domestic and international markets.

Australia has a strong history here. We have discovered Wi-FiSolar panels and Cochlear implants.

But we must do more.



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Economic complexity

The Atlas of Economic Complexity Produced at Harvard University. It is better to rank countries as more complex. The more complex a country’s exports are, the more exposed they are to cheaper substitutes from competing countries.

According to 2021 dataWe are ranked 93rd out of 133 countries, down from 60th in 2000. This ranks behind countries such as Japan (1st), Germany (4th), the United Kingdom (8th) and the United States (14th).

As the Atlas points out, „Australia is less complex than expected for its income level”.

Another big area of ​​Australia’s weakness is our lack of investment in research. As the interim report notes with concern, Australia’s university research is „highly reliant on uncertain international student funding”.

Currently, Australia Only invests 1.8% of its GDP in research and development. The OECD average is 2.7% and other countries invest significantly more. For example, Germany (3.1%), Japan (3.3%), USA (3.5%), South Korea (4.9%) and Israel (5.6%).

As Professor Jagadish told Radio National on Thursday, Australian investment in research as a share of GDP has declined every year since 2008. „We can’t tolerate it [this] If we want to be a smart country.”

Translating our research

A A report on innovation Published earlier this year, the Productivity Commission noted that Australia is a “small open economy with low (business and public) research capacity. [so] Many ideas and technologies from overseas come to Australia.

This means that our efforts must focus on how we use and promote new knowledge or „knowledge diffusion.” It’s about how we make the most of new technologies. An example is using new accounting software to free up staff time, shorten the billing cycle, or expand a business’s analytical capabilities.

As of 2022 Global Innovation IndexAustralia ranks 25th for its innovation capabilities, while it ranks 72nd for „knowledge diffusion”.

The Best countries Ireland, Finland, Israel and the Netherlands for the spread of knowledge in the world. Australia should spend more time studying the nature and performance of these small, open economies.

What is the role of universities?

Universities have a vital role to play in securing this future for Australia. Their mission is already to discover new knowledge through research and to disseminate this through teaching and learning.

Australia can learn more by studying US regions such as Boston and San Francisco (which have high-quality research universities) and their impact on entrepreneurship in their local economies. Geography is important as cutting-edge technology companies look to attract talented graduates, collaborate with experts and commercialize research findings.

But STEM fields don’t have to be the only ones involved. When science and technology matter Discovery and development phasesResearch in the humanities and social sciences needs to be adapted and translated.

2023 of the World Economic Forum The future of employment reporting It indicates how the most important skills for workers in the next five years will be analytical thinking and creative thinking, and then technological literacy.

Analytical and creative thinking are important to the dominant fields in the humanities, from history to political science and economics.

What does a university contract do?

In its initial draft, the University Agreement noted the need to promote the „commercial use” of Australian research capacity and the need to „encourage” universities to „move towards” research translation.

In its final report in December, we recommend greater emphasis be placed on the transformation needed to ensure Australia is sustainable and productive in the future.

This means adequate government funding for university research and a focus on the skills needed to come up with new ideas and products and apply them in real-world contexts.

In doing so, the review team and the government should not forget this, focusing on humanities and social science skills and the more obvious STEM skill sets.



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