Jobs and Skills Australia
The Group of Eight (Go8) welcomes the opportunity to provide feedback on the draft Terms of Reference for the Clean Energy Capacity Study that Jobs and Skills Australia has been commissioned to undertake on behalf of the Australian Government. Please note that this submission represents the views of the Go8 network and member universities may choose to make their own individual submissions.
The Go8, comprising Australia’s leading research-intensive universities, conducts 70 per cent of all Australian university-based research and invests $7.7 billion in research every year. We have strong research capabilities in clean energy technologies, including renewable and low emissions technologies necessary to support our energy transition. This is part of a total annual investment by the Go8 of $237 million in energy projects and $511 million in environmental projects.
We emphasise these points because of the significant role research will play in Australia’s clean energy future.
With many of the jobs that will underpin our clean energy future dependent on technologies that do not yet exist, the clean energy workforce will need to include research trained workers. Only a research trained workforce can understand the research undertaken around the world and facilitate its uptake here in Australia as well as be able to directly create the new technologies and innovations needed to support our clean energy transition.
For example, researchers at the SMaRT Centre at UNSW, led by founder Professor Veena Sahajwalla, are progressing important work in green manufacturing. Originally in partnership with OneSteel, researchers at the SMaRT Centre developed a process to make green alloys, using end‐of‐life rubber tyres and waste plastic as an alternative to coking coal. Now working with industry partner Molycop, many millions of passenger vehicle tyres have been diverted from landfill in Australia, and the technology has now been commercialised here and overseas in countries including South Korea, Thailand, the UK and Norway. UNSW researchers have shown that the technology of polymer injection into steel making is successful on a commercial scale and that has huge beneficial outcomes for the manufacturing industry as a whole, while at the same time demonstrating the successful translation of research into industry.
This connection of clean energy technologies to research and a research workforce is strongly aligned with the Government’s National Reconstruction Fund (NRF). The NRF has Renewables and low-emission technologies as a listed priority area, and the Minister for Industry and Science, the Hon Ed Husic MP, has said that part of what the NRF will deliver is that “It is one way we will realise our ambition to better connect industry to science; to ensure Australian-made discoveries can be commercialised and scaled in Australia.”
Consequently, we recommend that the clean energy research workforce is explicitly included in the Terms of Reference to ensure it is central to the considerations of the Project Steering Group and in particular the definition of the clean energy workforce.
Relatedly, it is also important that the Project Steering Group have representation from the university research sector. The Australian and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO) used in much Government workforce modelling and analysis has only a small number of explicitly research related occupations (five in total). This will not be sufficient to articulate the future research workforce needs of Australia’s future clean energy workforce. The Project Steering Group will need the participation of experts to assist in their deliberations, particularly given the relatively short deadline of a final report to the Australian Government by mid-2023.
Given the short timelines to accomplish this important work, the Go8 is committed to ongoing engagement with Jobs and Skills Australia in delivering on this capacity study.
DR MATTHEW BROWN
DEPUTY CHIEF EXECUTIVE