Bush universities bring ‘business dynamo’ to host towns
New and dynamic innovation-intensive regions are emerging outside metropolitan areas, challenging traditional thinking around university research and economic development, says the head of the Regional Australia Institute.
Speaking on the sidelines of the Regional Universities Network conference in Rockhampton last week, Jack Archer, RAI’s chief executive, said the lack of a clear policy framework that rewarded universities for contributing to the economic development of their regions was hampering progress.
“Traditional university incentives around research and student enrolments don’t really align with regional development challenges,” Mr Archer said.
“There has also been a simplistic look at the effect a university has on the local economy. It revolves around is there a university or not. But the picture is far more complicated than that.” Mr Archer said while a university would almost certainly guarantee more university-qualified people in a regional area, “whether that translates into significant economic development is a far more complex question”.
Recent work done by the RAI identified 13 regional areas with strong performance in innovation. While some, such as Hobart and Darwin, were obviously linked to university R&D, others were more closely linked to direct business investment in R&D in areas such as mining and agriculture and yet another emerging area of innovation — “lifestyle business hubs”.