Victoria's Lead Scientist

Victoria's Lead Scientist works across the Victorian Government to foster linkages and identify opportunities for economic outcomes by engaging with business, the research sector, government and the broader Victorian community.

The priorities of the Lead Scientist as outlined in the Strategic Plan 2018 - 2020 are to:

  • advocate the importance of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) to Victoria's economic future
  • enhance university/business engagement and identify opportunities to build scale of activities by facilitating partnerships
  • scan the horizon for new technologies and provide high level strategic advice on potential social and economic impacts
  • advocate to improve the innovation capacity of the public sector.

The Lead Scientist is supported by the Department Jobs, Precincts and Regions and reports to the department's secretary.

Stimulating Victoria’s Science and Research System Creates Jobs and Investment

The Victorian Government has released a new report that provides an evidence base for further investment in science and research infrastructure, skills, talent attraction, and the use of contestable funding as part of measures to stimulate economic growth in Australia’s recovery from the impact of coronavirus.

Nations around the world are looking to invest in science, technology and innovation as they rebuild economies affected by the coronavirus pandemic. This is because global policymakers understand that a high performing science and research system benefits the broader economy. Here in Australia we have mixed views at a government level and the community is uncertain how science and research contribute to jobs and prosperity for all rather than just the few. So, where is the evidence?

The report Stimulating the Science and Research System Creates Jobs and Investment released today, in partnership with the Australian College of Learned Academies (ACOLA), looks at the impact of a 10-year period of sustained investment in science, technology and innovation by the Victorian State Government. It looks at the direct economic impact of the stimulus and how that has improved the competitiveness of Victorian universities.

The $620 million Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) Initiative represents one of the largest investment programs in science and research capability by an Australian state government.  Started in 2000, the STI Initiative focused on developing research infrastructure, building capability in priority industry sectors, and fostering the skills and the conditions for commercialisation. It was delivered through open, contestable rounds of funding with priority given to industry-led proposals.

An earlier economic analysis of 135 projects funded by the STI Initiative conservatively estimated a return on investment of up to $3.50 for every dollar of Victorian Government funding, creating jobs and investment.

The impact of the program on Victoria’s competitiveness in national Higher Education Research and Development funding occurred within 2 years of the program starting and grew steadily over the next decade to 2012. These gains have been maintained in the long term. In dollar terms this represents a rise from $600 million per annum in 2000 to over $3 billion per annum in 2018.

Alongside the direct revenue impact of the STI Initiative, the reputation of Victoria’s universities has grown, attracting global talent, international investment and international students. International student numbers have increased by 66% over the past decade generating $12.6 billion in revenue in 2018-19. Forty per cent of this revenue represents tuition fees with the remaining $7.6 billion per annum spent on goods and services in retail, accommodation and tourism supporting almost 79,000 full time jobs across the broader Victorian economy.

The STI Initiative has created lasting capability in Victoria supporting future industries through investment in the people and the research tools businesses need.  For example: Investments in science and research infrastructure in light-weight manufacturing at Carbon Nexus has catalysed an employment precinct in Geelong that supports around 1400 jobs. The Melbourne Centre for Nanofabrication has assisted in the attraction of over $300 million in research investment and has supported industry to develop a range of commercial products.

Importantly, the STI initiative has enabled universities and research institutes to rapidly respond to the coronavirus crisis demonstrating the value of public investment in science and research over the long term. Specifically, Victoria’s science and research community has contributed to the national COVID-19 response, improving the understanding of the immunology and epidemiology of the virus, developing vaccines and treatments and leading research into the social impact of the pandemic.

We have done the test – and it works. So as State, Commonwealth and Territory Governments rebuild the Australian economy, we encourage policymakers to use this report as an evidence base to support further investment in science and research infrastructure, skills, talent attraction and the use of contestable funding to catalyse industry-led innovation as part of stimulus measures for future jobs and economic prosperity.

Dr Amanda Caples Lead Scientist, Victoria

Contact details

Telephone: (03) 9651 9038

Email the Lead Scientist

Follow on Twitter: @Vic_LeadSci

Latest tweets from
@Vic_LeadSci

Page last updated: 8 October 2020