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Call for bold science and tech investment

As Australia opens to the world amid a new COVID-19 reality, the science and technology sector is calling on political leaders to make a bold research and development investment to help secure the nation’s future.

Science and Technology Australia says doing so will create thousands of jobs and spur a science, technology, engineering and mathematics-led economic comeback.

“Science and technology have guided us safely through a once-in-a-century pandemic,” chief executive Misha Schubert said on Monday.

“Now we need to deploy them to create new jobs and drive Australia’s economic recovery.”

STA wants targeted investment in a wide array of frontier science and technology, including clean energy, medical technologies, artificial intelligence and quantum computing.

The group, which represents about 90,000 STEM professionals spanning the research system, the private sector, commercialisation hubs and deep-tech startups, wants political parties to pledge support ahead of the next federal election.

“Australia should set itself a vision to become a global STEM superpower, with a bold investment target,” Ms Schubert said.

“To achieve that goal, we need a once-in-a-generation investment to secure the new sovereign capabilities Australia needs in science and technology.”

The group says the nation needs a plan to tackle declining academic results in science, technology, engineering and mathematics subjects at school.

It’s also calling for comprehensive plans to safeguard the nation’s unique biodiversity and transition to a net-zero emissions economy.

STA has urged political parties to commit to funding the national science agencies at current levels, indexed to CPI, during the next government.

The group also wants a federal plan to drive research and development policy and investment, and repair the broken system of insecure work tied to competitive research grants.

It comes as Prime Minister Scott Morrison returns from the COP26 climate conference where he said the world was reclaiming what the COVID-19 pandemic had taken from it.

He also said it would be scientists, technologists, engineers and entrepreneurs that would chart a path to net-zero carbon emissions and governments must back them.

Australian-founded Atlassian last year announced it was helping build the nation’s largest tech hub in Sydney.

The technology giant is expected to become a permanent tenant, basing its headquarters in the towering new building above YHA Central Railway Square.

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