These ideas were developed by the EMCR Forum to support the careers of early- and mid-career researchers (EMCRs) in the research sector as it changes in response to the push for collaboration and drive for innovation.
The Career Flexibility Project is an online database to enable collaborations between industry and organisations which focus on research, to help EMCRs identify and gain skills which promote mobility and to highlight the skills of STEM EMCRs to industry and government.
FIRE—Fellowships for Industry–Research Exchange are five-year fellowships for mid-career researchers to ‘deep-dive’ into an industrial setting; includes non-traditional metrics in selection criteria.
The Innovation Centres for EMCRs are incubator-style research institute that exclusively house early-mid career STEM researchers with innovative, high reward approaches to addressing issues of national interest.
In Australia opportunities for career ‘switching’ between research organisations, industry and government are limited. EMCRs find it challenging to move between sectors, resulting in career instability. This lack of cross-sector mobility is inhibiting our scientific innovation and commercialisation potential.
Research training is still overwhelmingly tailored towards an academic career resulting in an oversupply of HDR graduates who are unsure of other career options and an exodus of highly qualified researchers from the Australian STEM sector, as they seek opportunities overseas or in other sectors.
A collection of resources for researchers and businesses which promote mobility and enable collaboration:
Mid-career STEM researchers are currently challenged by a lack of targeted funding. Researchers who are 10-20 years post-PhD are highly skilled and their extensive, training and knowledge equip them to answer ‘Big Questions’ relevant to industry and government using innovative approaches. However, there are limited opportunities to move between sectors.
A targeted funding scheme providing mid-career researchers with salary and operating expenses for collaborative projects with an industry or government partner would open up both sectors for meaningful collaboration and lasting engagement.
We propose 5-year competitive fellowships that support researchers to ‘deep-dive’ into an industrial setting, allowing the researcher to not only learn what to research, but also how their work can be of value to industry. For example, in the development of the plastic car mirror by UniSA and SMR Automotive, researchers learnt what coatings to fabricate and how these coatings would impact SMR’s bottom-line.
The fellowship would fund the following which would incentivise the participants:
The aim is to kick-start a long-term collaboration between the researcher and industry and initiates a project that feeds into the Innovation Connections, CRC, ARC Linkage or similar schemes.
The Australian STEM sector is built up of ‘silos’ of universities, industry and government. Funding for research is distributed via a merit-based system that does not reward innovative high-risk, high-return research.
We propose establishing research institutes that are comprised of early- and mid-career STEM researchers with innovative, high reward approaches to addressing issues of national interest.
The Francis Crick Institute in the UK runs under similar principles with groups led mostly by EMCRs on long term contracts of up to 12 years. These contracts are non-ongoing to ensure turn over.
© 2017 Australian Academy of Science