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ZUNZ 10 Why research? The role of the ARC and the encouragement of 'Blue Sky' and applied research in Australia

Seeding the blue sky for a downpour of R&D

The head of Australia's peak public research funding body predicts a "strengthening convergence of interests" between business and universities, with his preferred model being improved technology transfer from universities to industry.

Picture (left): Chairman of the Australian Research Council (ARC) Tim Besley exploring the future of public research in the 10th Zunz lecture on Wednesday 11 May 2005 at the University of Technology, Sydney.

His topic, "The role of the ARC and the encouragement of 'blue sky' and applied research in Australia", will take in the ARC's research funding, as well as aspects of commercialisation, the business-university interface, the practical application of research to a significant Australian industry and the role of a learned academy.

"We need to decide whether we want universities to make money directly from publicly funded in-house research or to concentrate on technology transfer – I believe the latter is the preferred course," Mr Besley said.

"I believe there will be a strengthening convergence of interests between business and universities. Companies in many cases simply don't have sufficient in-house resources to keep up with developments in their field so it seems to me universities now have a golden opportunity to win business research contracts.

"If we are to reap the benefits from research – including commercial benefits – there needs to be a close engagement between basic and applied research and between experimental development and practice."

Tim Besley is a civil engineer and barrister-at-law whose career has covered engineering, government, business and academia. He is currently a consultant to Leighton Holdings, and Chairman of the ARC, the Wheat Export Authority and the CRC for Greenhouse Gas Technologies. He has served as Chairman of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia and Leighton Holdings and as Secretary of the Commonwealth Department of Business and Consumer Affairs.

 The Zunz lecture series is presented by UTS:Engineering with the aim of exploring broad community subjects relating to the engineering profession. The series is named in honour of Sir Jack Zunz, a brilliant British engineer who led the design team on the Sydney Opera House and who was considered inspirational both in engineering and education.

Picture L to R: Professor Archie Johnson - Dean UTS:Engineering, Professor Ross Milbourne - UTS Vice Chancellor, Mr Tim Besley - Chairman of the Australian Research Council, and Dr John Nutt AM

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