284. Australia is pleased to co-sponsor this TRIPS Council agenda item on the role of education and diffusion, particularly in the area of education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics in stimulating global innovation and creativity. Education in these areas is a building-block for sustainable economic and social development by all Members.
285. We welcome this opportunity to share initiatives Australia is implementing to harness skills for the future, and we encourage other Members to share their national experiences on this important topic. Australia will use its intervention to focus on the role of education and diffusion in the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (known collectively as STEM) in promoting innovation and in a creative economy. A full-length version of Australia's statement is available at the door and will be provided to the Secretariat.
286. This Agenda recognizes that STEM are critical to a resilient, adaptable knowledge-based economy.
• This Agenda highlights our strengths - strong economic fundamentals, a stable investment climate and our high quality research organizations.
• It also identifies obstacles we need to overcome. These include falling maths and science skills among our students, and the lowest level of industry-research collaboration in the OECD.
287. In offering a snapshot of our national experience on this topic, Australia highlights some of the initiatives we are implementing under our National Innovation and Science Agenda grouped around four themes
a. primary and secondary education in STEM;
b. promoting STEM careers and retaining STEM talent;
c. commercializing STEM discoveries; and
d. improving Australia's international innovation and science collaboration.
Primary and secondary education in STEM
288. Australia recognizes that leading countries with high levels of competitiveness and technology entrepreneurship start early. They create lifelong STEM-literacy.
289. This is an area where Australia recognizes we can do better: We need inspired learning and curricula that value STEM, skilled STEM educators and a community that recognizes the public benefits of a STEM education. This is why we are investing in educational initiatives that build on global best practice.
290. One example is "Primary Connections: Linking Science with Literacy", a programme developed by the Australian Academy of Science and supported by the Federal Department of Education and Training. This programme engages students through hands-on classroom activities to apply their problem-solving skills to the world around them.
291. Another example is the first national girls-only Curious Minds STEM extension mentoring programme held in December 2015 at the Australian National University. Children from diverse backgrounds spent four days learning more about science, informatics and mathematics and being mentored by inspiring women in science.
292. The Government is also seeking to drive digital literacy in Australian schools. A new annual "Cracking the Code" competition will encourage young Australians to practise their coding and related skills in logic and critical thinking.
Promoting STEM careers and retaining STEM talent
293. Australia also recognizes students must have clearer pathways from the classroom to a rewarding career: We want to see Australian STEM research contribute to the global flow of new ideas and their smart application, both in newly emerging sectors such as nanotechnology and in more traditional sectors such as agriculture and mining.
294. We intend to meet the growing demand for courses for budding entrepreneurs, so they build the market connections that are vital to start-up success. And we recognize that strong STEM educational outcomes help Australia to remain an international education partner of choice.
295. One challenge we shared with Members during our 2015 dialogue on the role of women in driving innovation was the significant under-representation of Australian women in high level research positions.
296. Under the National Science and Innovation Agenda, the Government is redoubling its efforts to meet this challenge. In September 2015, the Australian Academy of Science and the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering launched a pilot of an effective UK scheme to increase the number of female researchers in senior STEM roles.
Commercializing STEM discoveries
297. A talented pool of STEM educators and professionals is important to boosting innovative and creative output. Australia has a strong track-record in this area. Success stories of Australia's well-established Cooperative Research Centre Programme include the Cochlear Hybrid system (which has restored hearing to over 140,000 hearing impaired adults and children worldwide), and the development of a world-first genetic diagnostic test which led to Australia eradicating equine influenza.
298. But having talented people is not enough. This was highlighted in a 2015 report commissioned by Australia's Chief Scientist, called Boosting High-Impact Entrepreneurship in Australia. This report highlighted that while Australia performed well in the world's top 1% of cited research papers on STEM, we are punching below our weight in commercializing STEM discoveries.
299. Australia's National Innovation and Science Agenda seeks to put Australia on the path to a more innovative and entrepreneurial economy, where technological breakthroughs occur and are diffused. A number of initiatives are underway in this area. This is where a modern and flexible intellectual property framework that embraces a range of capabilities from open access regimes to smart and agile use of patent and technology transfer strategies is an important element.
Linking to the world
300. Finally, Australia's Global Innovation Strategy aims to improve Australia's international innovation and science collaboration, leveraging off our STEM capabilities and our successful record of partnership.
301. The Square Kilometre Array, a next-generation radio telescope to be located in Australia and South Africa, is a prominent example of science institutions and technology companies collaborating from around the world. At a more modest level, the pilot project Connecting Australia-European Science and Innovation Excellence has delivered 58 new small and medium-sized enterprise and research partnerships and already yielded four patents.
302. In closing, Australia's STEM focus is on building competitiveness, supporting high quality education and training, maximizing research potential and strengthening international engagement. The role of education and diffusion in STEM is essential for innovation. We welcome the contribution of other Members to this discussion.