Chief scientist calls for dramatic changes to innovation policy

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Chief scientist calls for dramatic changes to innovation policy
Professor Ian Chubb

Australia ‘only OECD country without a science or tech strategy’.

Australia’s chief scientist Ian Chubb has called on the Government to play a more active role in pushing science and technology study to students, rather than leaving the future of Australian innovation ‘up to chance’.

Chubb handed down a set of recommendations today that, if adopted, should help Australia secure its future economic competitiveness by focussing on our youngest minds.

In an effort to re-inject an enthusiasm for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) into the education system, he called on Australian governments to ensure that every primary school has at least one specialist STEM teacher on its books at all times.

To slow the shortage of science and technology teaching staff, Chubb recommended the federal Government introduce incentives for high achievers in these subjects to take up teacher training and to increase the attractiveness of the career option through professional development and remuneration perks.

At the tertiary level, he wants to see education facilities encouraged to offer credit for work placement, to better align skills with industry needs.

In the proposal paper, Chubb complained that Australia is the only OECD country yet to adopt an overarching science or technology strategy.

“Australia’s STEM investments and policies have suffered from a lack of coordination, misdirected effort, instability and duplication. We have long presumed that good things will just happen if we wait.

“At the federal level, policy and programme responsibility is diffuse. The science, research and innovation investment reported in 2012-13—amounting to approximately $8.6 billion—was spread across a suite of programmes in 13 separate portfolios.”

Chubb recommended Canberra tighten the reigns on innovation policy by establishing a central innovation panel that would oversee and coordinate the nation’s STEM priorities.

The Government would do well to take its cues from the UK’s Technology Strategy Board and the US Small Business Innovation Research program, he said.

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