The importance of advanced physical, mathematical and biological sciences to the Australian economy

The Office of the Australian Chief Scientist and the Australian Academy of Science commissioned the Centre for International Economics to develop two complementary reports on the importance of recent advances in a selection of the sciences. We now have, for the first time, rigorous estimates of the extent to which our economy, our health and our environment are based on global advances in specific fields over the past 20 to 30 years. This report presents combined results for the core sciences—physical, mathematical and biological. The contribution of the core sciences is substantial—and consistent with estimates for the same sciences made using different methods in other countries.

If advances in the physical, mathematical and biological sciences over the past 20 to 30 years had not occurred, and those advances had not been incorporated into a range of products and services, our economy would be between 20% and 30% smaller than it is today.

The economists found that the combined contribution of the advanced physical, mathematical and biological sciences, directly and indirectly:

  • account for 26% of Australian economic activity, or around $330 billion per year
  • provide 10% of total Australian employment (about 1.2 million jobs)
  • generate 32% of our exports, or about $84 billion per year

Further, it is estimated that if advances in the biological sciences over the past 30 years had not occurred, and the new medical products and practices underpinned by those advances had not been created, the burden of disease in Australia would be 18% to 34% higher than it is today.

Much of the impact of new knowledge on the economy is incremental, but the cumulative effect of these changes is undoubtedly substantial. Science is now, and will continue to be, important to the economy and therefore important to all Australians.

© 2017 Australian Academy of Science

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