Western Australian students are an important key to the State developing a knowledge-based economy, according to Deputy Premier Hendy Cowan.
Mr Cowan said the Government’s Science and Technology policy, released in early 1997, had already recorded some significant achievements.
Releasing a report by the Department of Commerce and Trade on the progress of the policy’s implementation, the Minister said WA’s scientific knowledge and research skills base had been strengthened by initiatives in the education and training sectors.
Young people’s interest in the wide range of careers based on science and technology had been stimulated by a ground-breaking awareness campaign.
“Through the ResearchLink program, funding of $400,000 has enabled four postdoctoral strategic research fellowships to be created in high priority areas,” Mr Cowan said.
“The researchers are studying a variety of issues.
“These range across new distilling techniques for the oil refining industry, metropolitan groundwater supplies, economic potential of seaweed in the southern Kimberley and new methods of noise control in confined working spaces.”
Mr Cowan said graduates with science, technology and engineering qualifications were now being rewarded with higher levels of employment and higher pay rates.
“Their career prospects are further enhanced by the increasing availability of courses providing science and engineering graduates with project management and entrepreneurial business skills,” he said.
“The gradual but definite trend in the State towards an economy based on knowledge will require the State Government to continue to support secondary science education. “
At a more advanced level, Mr Cowan said that in the past three years the State Government had invested $15 million to create 19 university-based Centres of Excellence. A further $2.3 million had been committed to five of the Federal Government’s Co-operative Research Centres with a significant presence in WA.
In the last financial year alone, these funds leveraged commitments of $25 million in cash and $40 million in kind from universities and the CSIRO, and a further $20 million in direct benefits such as contract research by industry.
“These centres are delivering high quality, technology-based solutions to the business sector,” Mr Cowan said.
“Good researchers go where other leading people have chosen to work. Our Centres of Excellence have also done a great deal to prevent an exodus of talented researchers from this State.
“The Science and Technology Policy, as implemented by Commerce and Trade, has also stimulated industry to invest in commercially oriented research and development. Although the WA Innovation Support Scheme offers up to 50 per cent funding for projects, companies typically spend $2.4 for every $1 they receive.
Mr Cowan said the Government’s Co-ordination Committee on Science and Technology was now developing new ways to build on WA’s research capability.
Media contact: Peter Jackson 9222 8788