Research centres' billion-dollar boost to economy

A new study which quantifies the work done by co-operative research centres (CRCs) has found they pumped at least $1.1 billion into the economy.

The Allen Consulting Group report is the first to quantify the economic benefits delivered by the government-funded research centres.

It says consumers are 60 cents wealthier for every $1 invested in CRC research by the government.

Real consumption in the economy was up by $763 million, investment by $417 million and tax revenue by $66 million compared with what would have been the case without CRC research.

"This represents the minimum accounting of the returns from the program, with actual returns likely to be significantly higher," the report said.

Australia has more than 70 CRCs covering areas including manufacturing, information technology, mining, agriculture, environmental research and medical science.

The national CRC program began in 1990 with the government, universities, industry and other partners investing almost $10 billion in the centres since then.

CRC Association chairman Tony Staley said the report proved the economic benefits of investing in science.

"Measuring the benefits of science is extraordinarily hard, because they occur over long periods of time, affect large parts of the economy and society, and are, of course, part of the wider process of innovation and investment," he said.

"The CRC model is uniquely Australian, and is much admired around the world.

"This study provides concrete evidence that we have done something rather special in this country in the way we have structured the national research effort."