How immigration could drive science and innovation in Australia

According a leading Australian think-tank, immigration may the key to driving much needed science and innovation in Australia. Innovation and Science Australia recently handed a report to the Turnbull Government which outlines a suite of recommendations which it sees as necessary to take the country into the future.

The institute’s plan covers five core areas – education, industry, government, research and development – but stresses above all else the importance of two main factors: science and math education, and skilled migration.

The report explains why it is important to drive science and innovation forward in Australia, to boost so called ‘national missions’ such as improving the nation’s health to make it a world leader in this regard, and addressing environmental crises such as coral bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef, for not only national benefits but to address global challenges as well. The institute also identifies that there is a need to build Australia’s skills in this area, if the country is to meet the ambitious targets laid out in the plan.

In the report, they propose an open immigration system as one of the key methods of bolstering Australia’s science and math resources. Through broader immigration of skilled migrants, Australia could attract the minds and talents it needs to drive innovation and growth in the 21st century.

The institute’s statements echo sentiments previously expressed in a 2015 paper from the Migration Council of Australia which argued that immigration is crucial to create an innovation-conducive environment in Australia. It cited international research which shows a clear link between immigration and innovation, for example a study which showed that one-in four venture-backed public companies founded between 1990 and 2005 in the United States were established by migrants. The Migration Council of Australia argued that skilled migrants not only boosted their occupation and their industry thanks to their input, but they also contributed in a range of other ways, including creating more unskilled jobs.

The 2015 report also spoke about how Australia is already a global leader in terms of skilled migration, praising its effective hybrid approach which combines temporary and permanent migration, employer sponsorship and independent migration to achieve the best results.

The Australian Government has also recognised the importance of immigration in driving research, ideas and innovation throughout the country. As such they introduced the new Entrepreneur visa in September 2016 to ‘attract and retain the best and brightest entrepreneurial talent and skilled and talent people’. This visa applies to individuals seeking to develop or commercialise new ideas in Australia, as long as they have $200,000 of external funding already secured. This visa is part of the broader Business Innovation and Investment visa program which was instituted by the Australian Government to drive innovation through immigration. At the same time, the Government introduced changes to make it easier for highly skilled graduates from Australian post-graduate programs such as science and technology to secure permanent residency, and contribute to Australian industry and research.



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