The federal government has set aside more than $50 million to encourage more young Australian students to study science, technology and maths subjects at school.

Minister for Education and Training Senator Simon Birmingham said the government will invest about $51 million in new funding to help Australian students embrace the digital age, engage with science and maths in the early years and prepare for the jobs of the future.

The Inspiring all Australians in Digital Literacy and STEM package includes $48 million to inspire STEM literacy and $14 million to expand opportunities for women.

“Across the Government we are investing more than $112 million to equip young Australians with the digital, problem solving and critical reasoning skills needed for high wage jobs and to increase opportunities for girls and women in STEM,” Senator Birmingham said.

“Innovation is at the heart of the Turnbull Government’s vision for Australia’s future.

“Innovation and new investment in research and education will better prepare future generations of Australians, for the challenges and opportunities ahead.”

Senator Birmingham said the 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,” he said.

A new Research Support Programme and a Research Training Programme replace six existing schemes under the Research Block Grants, with additional funding of $127 million.

“The Research Support Programme will provide around $885 million in 2017 to Australian universities as a flexible funding stream to support the costs of research,” said Senator Birmingham.

“The Research Training Programme will provide around $948 million in 2017 to support the training of the next generation of researchers and innovators.”

Mr Birmingham said the Government will consult with universities and key stakeholders on the plan to replace the existing suite of six different research block grants with a simpler, more transparent system.

The new plan is scheduled to be implemented from January 1, next year.

And from July this year, the existing Linkage Projects scheme, administered by the Australian Research Council, will see a new application process allow it to be continuously open to applications, instead of the current annual processes.

“This will strengthen research and industry collaboration by making this key funding scheme much more responsive to the needs and priorities of business,” Senator Birmingham said.

This scheme would provide more flexibility and bring together Australian researchers, business, industry and other end-users to pursue innovative research.

Senator Birmingham said high quality research drives innovation that saves lives, answers social and environmental imperatives, improves economic productivity and growth, and creates the jobs of the future.

The new investment in national scale research infrastructure as part of the National Innovation and Science Agenda was essential if Australia was to build its reputation as a centre for innovation and world-class research.

Senator Birmingham said the government will invest $2.3 billion in new, sustainable funding over 10 years for national scale research infrastructure, including $1.5 billion for the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS).

“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,” he said.
“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.
“An additional $127 million will establish a new Research Support Programme and Research Training Programme.”

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