Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has wasted no time in righting some of the wrongs his predecessor, Tony Abbott, committed before getting voted out of office. After Abbott's sizable cuts to science and technology development, news of Turnbull's plan to roll out more than AUS $1 billion (U.S. $730 million) over the next four years to stimulate scientific research and invigorate education is really encouraging. The idea behind the funding is to create an "ideas boom" that will produce jobs, rev the economy, and make the country more competitive in the global market.
"Ongoing National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy funding from 2017-18 provides much needed long-term certainty, which drives collaboration between 35,000 researchers, government and industry, and supports research in areas like food production, health and sustainable cities," Sen. Simon Birmingham, minister for Education and Training, explained in a news release.
"There will be sharper incentives in research funding with new funding arrangements for universities that equally reward research excellence and partnership with industry. This focus on the commercialisation of research will ensure that publicly funded research addresses Australia's immediate and future economic, social and environmental challenges by taking our research from the lab to everyday life."
A large portion of the money will be awarded as grants available for tens of thousands of researchers across the country in fields such as medicine, food production, and sustainable energy. In addition to those working in the public sector, scientists working in industry will also benefit from the initiative.
The money is also being used in a variety of ways to promote STEM literacy in Australian citizens, while more than $150 million (AUS) will go to students in order to give them the technology and problem-solving skills required for jobs they will eventually hold. $14 million (AUS) will be used to get more women involved in STEM fields — a bold move, given that this gender disparity is a global issue.
"Innovation and new investment in research and education will better prepare future generations of Australians, for the challenges and opportunities ahead," Minister Birmingham continued. "The Turnbull Government will also introduce the first ever national impact and engagement assessment to look at economic, social, environmental and other benefits of Australian university research. This will build on the work already done by the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering and it will complement the current Excellence in Research for Australia."
In addition to the available funds for research, Australia will also be tweaking immigration policies for entrepreneurs and bankruptcy laws in order to encourage businesses to feel more comfortable making aggressive risks in the country.
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