The Commonwealth Science Council held its inaugural meeting in Canberra on 27 November 2014. The Prime Minister chaired the meeting, welcoming members and reiterating the importance of their work in providing strategic advice to Government on science and technology issues and building stronger collaboration between scientists, researchers and industry.

Terms of Reference were agreed for the Council and the National Science, Technology and Research Committee (NSTRC), the new operational committee that will support the work of the Council.

The Council noted the Government’s investment in science, research and innovation of $9.2 billion in 2014- 15 and agreed the need to maximise the benefits from this investment and improve collaboration and the translation of research into commercial outcomes, while supporting pure research.

Members considered the Chief Scientist’s report: Benchmarking Australian Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). It was referred to the NSTRC to use as an evidence base as it identifies areas to improve Australia’s overall performance. The report will be released shortly.

Members considered the Chief Scientist’s report: Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics: Australia’s Future, including its recommendations for a strategic whole-of-government approach to STEM. Members discussed the recommendations which could have the greatest impact and asked the NSTRC to consider their feasibility for further consideration and development. Policies and proposed actions stemming from the report will be considered by the Science Council at its next meeting.

The Prime Minister and the Minister for Industry (Deputy Chairman) led a discussion on the Government’s Industry Innovation and Competitiveness Agenda, including an update on the consultation process that is underway. The Minister for Education led a discussion on the Boosting the Commercial Returns from Research discussion paper. The Minister for Health led a discussion on the Medical Research Future Fund.

Members strongly supported the need for science and research priorities as highlighted by the Industry Innovation and Competitiveness Agenda and discussed draft priorities developed by the Chief Scientist. Members agreed that further consultation on the draft priorities and the challenges underpinning them would inform advice to Government to be considered at the Council’s next meeting.

The Council agreed a forward work programme, with key items for further consideration to include:

  • advice on science and researchpriorities and the underpinning challenges;
  • policy recommendations and actions on bringing strategic alignment, focus and scale to STEM in Australia;
  • the outcome of consultation processes currently underway on the Industry Innovation and Competitiveness Agenda and the Boosting the Commercial Returns from Research discussion paper; and
  • actions to promote industry links and commercial returns from research.

The Council will next meet in the first half of 2015.

27 November 2014 – Record ofInaugural Commonwealth Science Council Meeting